Menomonee River returning to natural state; opening fish passage

Published Oct. 31, 2014

DETROIT – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, USACE, announces a recent contract award to restore the natural ecosystem in the Menomonee River in Wisconsin.

This ecosystem project awarded to C.W. Purpero, Inc., from Oak Creek, Wis., for $5.25 million, is funded through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, GLRI, managed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA. The planned project involves removing an 8-inch thick concrete lining forming a channel along approximately 2,400 lineal feet of the Menomonee River. Restoring fish spawning and rearing in the river by providing fish passage through the affected section.

“We are proud to move this project forward, creating a more natural channel and improving aquatic habitat because, the Corps of Engineers is the nation’s environmental engineer, creating engineering solutions for the nation’s environmental challenges. We have one of the largest environment restoration and environmental sustainability roles in the federal government”, said Lt. Col. Michael Sellers, district engineer, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Detroit District.

The Menomonee River is a tributary of the Milwaukee River and discharges into the federal navigation channel in the Milwaukee Harbor in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This particular area of the river is within the EPA’s Area of Concern, AOC. During the 1960s the Menomonee River was lined with concrete, for flood control purposes; these actions have proven to adversely affect the health of the surrounding ecosystem.

According to Sellers, USACE seeks innovative solutions to environmental challenges that affect everyone – sustainability, climate change, endangered species, environmental cleanup, ecosystem restoration, etc.

The philosophy and goal at USACE, behind ecosystem restoration, is to restore and sustain the health, productivity, and biological diversity of ecosystems and the overall quality of life through a natural resources management approach.

USACE recognizes that these challenges are immense and no one agency can address them alone. “We work collaboratively with other federal, tribal, state and local governmental agencies, non-governmental environmental organizations and academia to find solutions”, said Sellers, speaking about the partnership with the EPA and the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, MMSD, to complete the ecosystem project on the Menomonee River in Milwaukee, Wis.

Plans include several opportunities to delist the Milwaukee Estuary AOC by addressing the beneficial use impairments sighted by EPA and are geared around improving fish passage and aquatic habitat in the Menomonee River, by accomplishing the following:

  • Improve fishery habitat along the Menomonee River
  • Restore indigenous fish species in the river
  • Provide increased recreational opportunities along the waterfront
  • Restore a diverse and self-sustaining riparian vegetative community along the river’s edge
  • Restore fish spawning and rearing in the river by providing passage through the affected section
  • Decrease peak velocities within the channel
  • Improve water quality
  • Decrease maintenance expenses
  • Improve the overall health of the estuary

To achieve the improved fish passage and habitat restoration the plans for this project include developing portions of the river with six still locations, or pools, and six rapid moving locations, or riffles.

The Menomonee River watershed covers 136 square miles, including portions of Washington, Ozaukee, Waukesha and Milwaukee Counties and flows approximately 32 miles in a southeasterly direction from its headwaters in the Village of Germantown and the City of Mequon, Wis. to the Milwaukee River in the Milwaukee Harbor Estuary. 


Lynnn Rose

Release no. 14-013