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Fund for Lake Michigan pledges $250K for removal of Estabrook Dam

The Fund for Lake Michigan has pledged $250,000 toward the removal of the Estabrook Dam on the Milwaukee River.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to regain miles of free-flowing river,” Vicki Elkin, executive director of the fund, said in a news release. “The dam removal aligns perfectly with our mission to improve water quality in both Lake Michigan and its tributaries. We’re thrilled to be involved.”

The fund said removing the dam would restore crucial habitat for native fish species including sturgeon, walleye, salmon and trout. It also would restore the river’s natural flow and clear sediment and unsightly debris which accumulates upstream of the dam. 

The crumbling dam on Milwaukee’s northeast side is facing some $4.1 million in repairs along with $200,000 in annual maintenance, according to the news release. Removing the dam altogether would save taxpayers nearly $2.5 million while providing environmental benefits for generations to come.

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele applauded the Fund for Lake Michigan for stepping forward as the first private group to pledge money for the project.

 “Taking out the dam means we can invest millions more into our county parks which are destinations both for visitors and our own residents,” Abele said.

Earlier this fall, Abele announced a plan to transfer ownership of the dam from Milwaukee County to the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, which has the engineering and management expertise to carry out a large-scale project, such as the dam’s removal.

“We can’t thank the fund and its trustees enough for this bold gesture of support,” said Kevin Shafer, executive director of the MMSD. “This is an exciting project for the ecosystem and for the entire region. It’s going to save money, improve fishing opportunities and reduce the risk of future flooding.”

“The Fund for Lake Michigan has stepped up in a big way to protect the Milwaukee River watershed,” Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett stated. “Removing the dam will improve water quality and reduce flooding.  On behalf of the city of Milwaukee, I thank the fund for this generous and environmentally sound investment.”

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