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Abele: Get rid of that dam nuisance

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele

The Estabrook Dam is a non-functioning eyesore, it’s expensive to maintain and it’s damaging the Milwaukee River.

Milwaukee County is legally obliged to do something about this public nuisance. We can repair the dam or we can remove it. Milwaukee County Board Chairman Theo Lipscomb supports repairing the dam, even though repair costs more than twice as much as removal and is a less environmentally friendly option.

Right now it will cost at least $4.1 million to repair the dam. That amount is $600,000 more than the county has in the budget for this project. That number doesn’t include ongoing maintenance costs for the operation of the dam. In contrast, removing the Estabrook Dam would be a one-time cost of $1.7 million, much of which could be covered by grant money.

The choice seems pretty simple. I support removal of the dam, and so does Mayor Tom Barrett, the city of Milwaukee, the village of Shorewood, a number of environmental groups, and thousands of Milwaukee County residents. I’m asking the Board of Supervisors to reconsider their decision and remove the dam.

In addition to being the better option for the budget, removing the dam would restore the river to a more natural-looking and free-flowing condition, and also eliminate an eyesore that invites constant graffiti, litter and unsafe conditions. Some of the things I’ve seen caught up in the river because of the dam include old tires, empty prescription-pill bottles, beer cans, Styrofoam cups and other garbage. Repairing the dam won’t eliminate these nuisances.

I know the dam is a personal issue for Chairman Lipscomb, and that is understandable. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Lipscomb and some of the 40 or so property owners upstream of the dam in Glendale support repairs and upgrades for the purpose of restoring an artificial lake for recreation.”

Chairman Lipscomb doesn’t have to support removal of the dam. But thousands of people in Milwaukee County support removal and I think their voices deserve to be heard. We are urging the chairman to allow the duly elected Board of Supervisors to at least take a vote on removing the dam.

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