How is the Milwaukee Estuary Area of Concern (AOC) related to the Kletzsch Park improvements?

AOCs are areas across the Great Lakes where tributaries, estuaries or harbors have been federally identified as having experienced immense environmental degradation – often due to legacy industrial pollution and impacts from urban and agricultural land uses. As a result, today the public is unable to fully use the resource in a safe or beneficial way.

Since 1987, 43 AOCs have been identified in the US and Canada. The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA), which includes the AOC Program, is a commitment between the U.S. and Canada to protect and restore the Great Lakes. This agreement works to address legacy impairments to restore the health of our waterways, environment, and community. Some AOC restoration actions include: creating habitat for fish and wildlife, improving water quality, removing invasive species, planting native vegetation, remediating legacy pollutants, and improving beach conditions to reduce closures.

The Milwaukee Estuary has been identified as an AOC, and it includes the confluence of three major tributaries to Lake Michigan: the Milwaukee, Menomonee, and Kinnickinnic Rivers, plus segments of Lincoln Creek, Little Menomonee River and Cedar Creek. It also includes Milwaukee’s nearshore waters of Lake Michigan. Some of the impairments found within the Milwaukee Estuary AOC include fish tumors, bird and animal deformities, restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption, loss of fish and wildlife habitat, beach closings, and the presence of undesirable algae. The proposed improvements at Kletzsch, including the fish passage, will address specific impairments at this site.

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, established in 2010, funds most AOC projects with additional funding and support coming from local/regional stakeholders. Funding for the Kletzsch improvements includes $1.4M in grant funding from Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and Fund for Lake Michigan for fish passage, $330K in WDNR Municipal Dam Grant and Milwaukee County funding for the dam repairs, and $226K in WDNR Stewardship grant funding for the improved river access and overlook. Additionally, the Great Lakes AOC program sees a 2-3x return on every dollar invested in increased tourism, recreation, and property values.

Restoration work is underway to protect and restore Milwaukee’s waterways: providing better natural ecological function within our local rivers and estuary, generating local and regional economic opportunities, and improving public access to waterways. Work at Kletzsch will build upon work happening in locations across the Milwaukee Estuary AOC and the state, as well as unlock future funding for AOC projects within the Milwaukee Estuary.

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