Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Estbrook Dam Hearing
Last evening myself and around a hundred other citizens attended the informational public hearing on the issue of repair or removal of the Estabrook Dam held by the Milwaukee County Supervisors board on Parks, Energy, and the Environment.
It is always good to attend these hearings, whether one is interested in obtaining more information, or just to make one's voice heard.
The county board certainly received many impassioned opinions from both sides of the issue. Many citizens exercised their right to speak during the public comment section of the meeting. Comments were limited to two minutes each.
South East Wisconsin Trout Unlimited, the Milwaukee Riverkeeper, the River Alliance, and yours truly were among those advocating for dam removal.
The meeting did get a bit tense, and as I got up to speak, someone had to be cautioned by deputies, but all in all, it was a peaceful and very informative meeting.
Here is the short speech I presented to the County Supervisors:
I came here tonight as an avid supporter for removal of the Estabrook dam.
I spend countless hours every year on this river fishing, boating, hiking, photographing, exploring, and writing about this wonderful resource. From its trout stream headwaters, all the way to its estuary, very few people know this river as intimately as I do.
Thus, I came with the purpose of presenting the ecological and environmental reasons why we would all benefit from the dam’s removal, much as we previously benefited from the removal of the North Avenue dam when we saw several miles of river emerge from suffocation, and spring back to life.
But… Then, the other day, I went and sat by this dam for an hour, reread your work-group report and all the historical documents, and realized the larger issue before us.
This dam is a boondoggle, pure and simple.
It does nothing to prevent flooding, instead it actually increases flooding potential for those living upriver.
It degrades water quality, prevents fish migration, and poses hazards to those living and recreating downstream. Its sole purpose is to create an impoundment upstream so that a very vocal few can continue to recreate in an historic still-water environment.
Meanwhile the dam is falling apart, and we are now faced with the choice of spending millions of dollars for repairs and ongoing maintenance costs, or to simply remove the dam.
Let’s do the right thing for the 950,000 taxpayers and voters of Milwaukee County that are slowly becoming aware of this issue. This is our chance to remove the dam, and get out from under the perpetual financial and physical liability it places on us, and as an added benefit, help restore our river to something we and future generations can be truly proud of. Thank you.
Erik Helm, Shorewood, WI