Graham Kilmer
MKE County

County Taking On Coastal Erosion

Officials seek a strategic plan for protecting Lake Michigan's coastal bluffs from erosion.

By - Dec 2nd, 2023 10:20 am

Coastal bluff in Warnimont Park. Photo by Graham Kilmer.

Milwaukee County officials are preparing to develop a strategic plan for addressing coastal erosion along Lake Michigan, the county’s eastern border.

This effort will produce conceptual plans for repairing and fortifying some of the coastal bluffs that were greatly damaged during the 2020 winter storm that caused millions in damage up and down Milwaukee’s coastline.

County officials from the Department of Administrative Services (DAS) have begun looking for a consultant to help them develop this plan with funding from the county’s allocation through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). All 13 parks in the county with coastal bluffs will be evaluated, but particular attention will be paid to those damaged during the storms: Bay View Park, Big Bay Park, Lake Park, Sheridan Park and Warnimont Park.

Fluctuating lake levels and strong storm surges are accelerating coastal erosion, according to the county. In 2020, the same year as the massive winter storm, record lake levels were recorded throughout most of the year.

The next year, in 2021, Milwaukee County completed an inventory of approximately $2.9 billion worth of public coastal assets and found that 13% were in poor condition and nearly a quarter were highly vulnerable to further damage. The county’s coastal bluffs are valued at more than $1 billion.

DAS officials are looking for high-level estimates for projects that will address this damage, but the study will also become the foundation of a strategic plan for mitigating coastal erosion across the county. County officials will use the plan to prioritize projects and funding.

DAS expects the county to fold these projects into the county’s annual planning process for infrastructure maintenance and spending. But it also expects the county will go after grants.

Following the winter storm in 2020, the Federal Emergency Management Agency determined the bluffs were not eligible for federal disaster relief funding.

County officials hope to have a consultant in place by the end of January 2024 and expect the planning process to be complete by the end of the year.

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Categories: MKE County, Parks

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