Planet Earth

published : 2023-10-14

Federal, State, and Local Officials Commit $450 Million to Restore Milwaukee Waterways

Massive project to tackle contaminated sediment in Lake Michigan harbor and nearby rivers

Aerial view of Milwaukee's Lake Michigan harbor, showcasing the vast expanse of water ready for restoration and revitalization. (Photo taken with Nikon D850)

Federal, state, and local officials have joined forces to tackle the environmental challenges facing Milwaukee's Lake Michigan harbor and surrounding rivers with an impressive investment totaling $450 million.

In a significant move, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has allocated $275 million from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to fund the dredging and removal of contaminated sediment from the area.

Additional contributions of $170 million will be made by key stakeholders such as the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, We Energies, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the city of Milwaukee, and Milwaukee County Parks.

The ambitious project aims to remove nearly 2 million cubic yards of contaminated sediment from the harbor, as well as clean up a stretch of 12 miles along the Milwaukee, Menomonee, and Kinnickinnic rivers.

The EPA has identified the presence of harmful pollutants, including PCBs, petroleum compounds, mercury, lead, and chromium, resulting from extensive industrial activities in the region.

Close-up shot of a sample of contaminated sediment from the harbor, highlighting the presence of pollutants that pose a threat to the ecosystem. (Photo taken with Canon EOS 5D Mark IV)

By removing this contaminated sediment, the water quality in the area will see a significant improvement, promoting the revival of fish and wildlife populations and providing better recreational opportunities for the community.

Chris Korleski, director of the EPA's Great Lakes National Program Office, anticipates that dredging operations will commence between 2026 and 2027.

To facilitate this process, the sewerage district will construct a storage facility specifically designed to handle the immense volume of sediment to be extracted.

The successful implementation of this ambitious initiative has been made possible by the comprehensive financial backing provided by Congress, through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

With an annual allocation of approximately $300 million, this program has considerably supported cleanup efforts in the region.

Group of smiling children fishing along the Milwaukee River, representing the potential for improved water quality and the return of a vibrant fish population. (Photo taken with Sony Alpha a7 III)

Furthermore, the recent passage of a transformative infrastructure package by Congress has injected an additional $1 billion into the initiative over the next five years, allowing the Milwaukee project to flourish.

This momentous investment in the restoration and revitalization of Milwaukee's waterways marks a critical step forward in safeguarding the environment and improving the quality of life for local residents.

As the project progresses, it will undoubtedly serve as a testament to the power of collective action and the enduring commitment to preserving our precious natural resources.