Estabrook Dam Removal

July 17th, 2015

On July 13, 2015, 114 Glendale residents petitioned the Glendale Common Council for the removal of the Estabrook Dam. The petition comes on the heels of the Milwaukee County board’s approval of a finance package that changed the County’s policy on the dam from removal to repair. Many Glendale residents have homes located on the Milwaukee River just upstream of the dam. As long as the dam remains in place, those residents will continue to deal with increased risk of flooding and are forced to pay expensive flood insurance that costs some homeowners between $2,000-$3,000 every year. Removing the dam will decrease the flood risk and residents could ask FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Association) to redefine the floodplain and flood zone to provide some affected Glendale homeowners with financial relief.

Read the full article below.

Estabrook Dam opponents submit petition to Glendale
By Jeff Rumage
July 15, 2015

Glendale — A group of 114 Glendale residents have petitioned the Glendale Common Council to support the elimination of the Estabrook Dam.

The petition submitted to the council on Monday, July 13, comes two months after the council approved a resolution urging Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele to implement the Milwaukee County Board’s existing policy decision, which is to repair the dam.

Glendale was the only community to support the restoration of the dam. The Milwaukee Common Council, Shorewood Village Board and Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District have all passed resolutions urging the removal of the dam. All of these resolutions have been sent to Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Christopher Foley, who is presiding over a Milwaukee Riverkeeper lawsuit ordering Milwaukee County to abate the public nuisance caused by the dam.

In an effort to change the Glendale council’s opinion, a group of friends who met each other through dog-walking decided to go door-to-door talking to residents living north of Silver Spring Drive, northeast of Milwaukee River Parkway, east of Sunny Point Road and southwest of the Milwaukee River.

While other groups like Milwaukee Riverkeeper have focused on the environmental benefits of eliminating the dam, the group of dog-walkers focused more on the effect the dam has on flooding and flood insurance. Resident Dave Dubiski, for example, said he pays an additional $2,500 per year because he lives in a flood zone. If the dam is removed, they believe the Federal Emergency Management Association will redefine the flood zone to their benefit.

The group said some residents near the river have moved out of their homes because they couldn’t afford to pay $200 per month for flood insurance.

“That’s the hidden cost nobody has been talking about,” said resident Phyllis Santacroce.

The group cited a recent memo from the Milwaukee County Office of Emergency management stating that, if the dam is repaired, severe weather would cause the gates to become immobile due to high water pressure, debris and other factors. The memo predicts 350 families in the upstream floodplain would have to be evacuated in that severe weather scenario.

Milwaukee River Preservation Association President Tammy Blaeske refuted the group’s claim that riverfront homeowners would be removed from the floodplain. Of the roughly 360 homes on the river, she said only five to 10 homes would be reclassified by the removal of the dam.

Because the meeting was not legally noticed as a public hearing, only one person from the anti-dam group — Chris Daood — was allowed to speak. A separate public hearing will be scheduled in the future to hear comments from people on each side of the issue.

A crowd of people from the Milwaukee River Preservation Association also came to the meeting with hopes of advocating for repair of the dam, but were not allowed due to open meetings law. Blaeske said the pro-dam organization plans to submit a petition of its own to the common council at the public hearing. She anticipates the petition will have “a lot more than 107 signatures” supporting the repair of the dam.

The group that petitioned the council also claimed proprety values for riverfront homes will not decline if the dam is removed — a claim that is backed up by a technical report prepared by AECOM, an engineering firm, for Milwaukee County in February. The MRPA, on the other hand, has surveys and anecdotal claims from realtors that those homes’ property values will drop at least 20 percent.

The dam, which was built in the late 1930s, is located near Estabrook Drive and Hampton Avenue. Milwaukee County was ordered to repair or remove the dam in 2009, and the county board later voted to repair the structure. Abele supports the removal of the dam, which would cost $1.7 million.

Restoring the dam would cost $2.5 million, which includes $900,000 for fish passage. When including 20 years of maintenance costs, the price tag increases to $5.1 million.