Saturday, July 23, 2011

Underwood Creek: good, bad, and ugly?

Underwood Creek has long been a troubled waterway. Much of it was channelized in the 1960’s, as is most dramatically evident in this view west from 115th Street in Wauwatosa. Now Waukesha  wants to dump its (treated) wastewater into Underwood Creek – from whence it would flow into the Menomonee River.

If you’ve been following this issue you know that the diversion of Lake Michigan water over the boundary of the Great Lakes watershed has been highly controversial. Although the Wisconsin DNR recently approved the application process, allowing it to move forward, the decision still must be ratified by the governors of all states (and provinces) that border on the Great Lakes, in accord with the Great Lakes Compact.

I urge everyone to attend one of three public hearings that have been scheduled for southeastern Wisconsin to give the DNR a chance to provide an overview of this process.

One of the public hearings is at 5:30 on Wednesday, July 27, at Hart Park in Wauwatosa.

The other two are in Pewaukee (July 26) and Sturtevant (July 28). For much more information about the issue and all three public hearings, go to Milwaukee Riverkeeper.

As part of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District’s flood management project, a lot of time, effort, and money have gone into removing a section of the concrete channel from Underwood Creek. The benefits of this are far more than aesthetic. This photo shows part of that work in progress in 2010. What will happen to all of this when the extra wastewater from Waukesha in thrown into the mix? I hope the public hearing will shed some light on that and many other questions.
Other things are happening along Underwood Creek. On the plus side, I recently biked underneath Bluemound Road on the Oak Leaf Trail for the first time – a huge improvement, as anyone who frequents this popular bike path can attest. As this photo shows, there is still some work to be done before the new path is completely connected on either side of Bluemound. 
On the unfortunate and ironic side, a section of Underwood Parkway, near Watertown Plank Road, is being repaved. I’m all for new pavement. This parkway has been getting progressively worse for many years. But why are they putting in curbs?
Progressive streetscaping uses swales instead of curbs. Swales are gently sloping ditches that allow stormwater to soak into the ground instead of running along the curb and into a sewer pipe. They are a perfect solution for a roadway like the parkway. How much taxpayer money has gone into flood management on both sides of this parkway, along Underwood Creek and in the County Grounds? But now we’re putting in new curbs and sewers to carry off stormwater instead of inexpensive swales?

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