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MMSD plans major flood-management project

The Milwaukee Metropolitan
Sewerage District is ready to begin an $84 million project to prevent flooding
around the Menomonee River.

“The Milwaukee County Grounds flood-management
facility is the cornerstone to the rest of the Menomonee River work,” said
MMSD Executive Director Kevin Shafer.

The district’s 28-community
service area in southeastern Wisconsin suffered nearly $100 million in flood damages
in the past eight years; floods in Milwaukee County caused four fatalities and
$138 million in property damage since 1973. The MMSD’s newest project in
Wauwatosa is designed to counter that with a holding ground to store water during
heavy rainfall.

About 2.2 million cubic yards of earth will be excavated
to create a 90-acre storage basin in the Milwaukee County Grounds near Highway
45. A half-mile long, 17-foot diameter underground tunnel will pipe water east
into the basin from Underwood Creek, and an outlet on the basin’s eastern
end will allow it to flow out over the course of a few days.

The project’s
priority is to prevent floods, but it will also create a public park. Shafer said
the property will be landscaped and designed as a natural area that could be used
for hiking, bird watching and other activities. A three-mile bike path will circle
the basin.

Most of the excavated earth will move a short distance to the
southwest to build up a 55-acre area that Milwaukee County will convert into green
space. The state Department of Natural Resources is creating a Forestry Education
Center adjacent to the basin.

“What we’re trying to do is integrate
this design and construction into what the state forest will look like as well,”
Shafer said. “We’re trying to mimic nature as much as possible.”

Open
house set

There will also be signs pointing out historic sites in the area,
including two cemeteries. One was already guarded by a chain-link fence, but the
MMSD also discovered an unknown 100-year-old grave for a pauper.

The MMSD
will share its design with area residents May 1 during an open house at Camp Wil-O-Way
in Wauwatosa. It has already met with local Sierra Club representatives and the
Friends of Milwaukee’s Rivers to discuss plans for the natural areas, Shafer
said.

The district is breaking the project into two phases. Phase I includes
the excavation work and construction of a bridge that will carry Swan Boulevard
over the basin.

The district estimated it would cost $27 million, but it
collected a low bid of $16.9 million from Oak Creek’s Edgerton Contractors
Inc. for the job last month. The MMSD Commission is to vote on the bid during
its May 22 meeting.

Phase II will include construction of the intake tunnel
and outlet. Shafer said that would be bid out in about a year.

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