Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Misinformation continues to flow over the Estabrook Dam

Below is an excerpt from an article by Joe Lanane, Daily Reporter, and following that are some comments I have to get off my chest.

Glen Goebel, director of the Milwaukee River Preservation Association, said the Estabrook Dam was originally built as a flood deterrent. If the dam was permanently removed, he said, flood spillover could go as far as one mile out from the river’s banks — enough to potentially reach Glendale City Hall.

“It would do that worse nowadays than it would back then because it was mostly farmland back then,” Goebel said. “It was a flood-control project that we really still need in place.”


It still amazes me that this fundamental falsehood remains as an accepted truth to many of the Milwaukee County Supervisors, as propagandized by Supervisor Lipscomb, who is hardly partial on the issue, and has an inside seat and corresponding voice on the county board, or Mr. Goebel, president of a pro-dam lobby group, who's wild and scientifically baffling claims as to the positive and negative aspects of dams and removal have been a rather sad commentary on the ability of special interest groups to lobby regardless of the truth of the facts they espouse.

The Estabrook Dam was the final piece in a flood control project. It, by itself, offers little or no flood control at all, especially to the area of Glendale noted by Mr. Goebels, which is UPSTREAM from the dam. The flood control project consisted of driving a straight channel through a series of S-curves in Lincoln park in order to speed the river, and lessen ice buildup on the outside bends in the river, which in spring thaw, created ice-jams and caused localized flooding. The dam was designed as a water-height regulator to control the flow and height of the river upstream. How a dam is supposed to prevent flooding upstream of its location just baffles me. By slowing the water flow and backing up the river in a flood, the dam could conceivably aid in flood prevention downstream, however, that entire area is already a flood plain, and homes and businesses are built high on the river banks. In addition, the design of the Estabrook Dam negates even that possible flood control, as in a heavy rain event the entire dam is submerged, and the river runs over and around it.

What the dam, very ironically does, is increase the flooding potential in a sudden rain event in the impoundment area bordered by the dam itself and roughly Bender Rd. By backing up the river, the dam decreases the flow rate and throughput ability of the river in cubic feet per second, to evacuate the channel and move downstream. So it is sad that this falsehood, maintained by the Milwaukee River Preservation Association (read 'Dam preservation'), and Mr. Lipscomb, actually negatively affects the very home-owners that are being represented as advocating for dam preservation in part due to concerns about flooding.

And yet the Milwaukee County Board, which is literally approaching a financial meltdown, and losing the respect of county taxpayers, is on the brink of recommending and funding the repair of the Estabrook dam based in part, on false and unscientific information which has been publicly refuted by both engineers from The Wisconsin DNR, the Milwaukee Riverkeeper, the River Alliance, and other organizations and bodies that actually have some experience with rivers and dams.

Your tax dollars down the drain, fellow citizens.

At least the county board should consider and debate this important infrastructure issue with all of the FACTS before them, and not popularly accepted myths. Kudos to Supervisor Broderick, who, seemingly a lone voice of reason, has tried to steer the board's decision towards a more open public forum. Funny, but I seem to remember many letters written, facts laid out, and testimony given last year, which somehow got lost or misplaced in the minds of the County Supervisors or masked over by the endless fog of miss-information.

Claiming that the Estabrook Dam prevents flooding in Glendale is like a scene out of 'The Music Man.' It would be funny if it was not our own county board that was buying it, and all of us poor schlubs that will be paying for the decision with tax dollars and bonds that we can ill-afford.

At absolute least, please be honest about why the dam is to be saved. To keep the still-water impoundment upstream of the dam intact so that power-boating can occur and docks can be maintained. All at the expense of the river, water quality, fish, wildlife, and yes... your wallet.

The march of folly continues on...


  1. Right on as always, Erik!! People need to call their County Supervisors and tell them that they want this dam removed. although the County has already alloted $2M for work on the dam, we expect most of that will be consumed by removal of PCB contaminated sediment. They will need a separate allocation from the Board to fix the Dam. Note that their new cost estimates also do not include long-term maintenance of this dam, which is over 80 years old, nor creation of a fish passage, which should be required as part of a dam that is to be ordered by DNR permanently shut. We would prefer it stay permanently open or just be removed. Best for the river, the environment, and the County Taxpayer!

  2. Thanks for sharing, I called my supervisor after reading this.


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