During the 20th century, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, became a hub of human activity and commerce. Toxic chemicals, discarded animal hides, meatpacking offal and other waste were dumped into the connected Milwaukee, Menomonee and Kinnickinnic rivers with abandon, not to mention municipal sewage.
Now a coalition of government entities and advocates is launching an ambitious project to remove that sediment, then restore habitat, improve public access and spur commercial and residential development.
The Milwaukee River estuary – all three of the city’s rivers and its harbor – is designated one of 43 “Areas of Concern” around the Great Lakes, all eligible for federal dollars for sediment cleanup and habitat restoration. The Milwaukee cleanup is among the most ambitious of any of those projects undertaken or proposed, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that oversees the program.