Sediment Reduction in the Milwaukee River South Priority Watershed
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
Basin Program Funds:
The Milwaukee River South Watershed Plan identified about 16,200 acres of cropland
eroding under the tolerable soil loss rate (T). About 8,500 of these
acres, although not highly erodible, were found to have high sediment
delivery rates. By controlling erosion in these areas, a 30% reduction in sediment
delivery to the Milwaukee River from the Milwaukee River South watershed would
The project was designed to provide incentives to landowners to reduce sediment
from cropland to levels below tolerable soil erosion rates, or "T". Many fields,
despite being controlled to "T" for agricultural production and soil erosion
control purposes, continue to deliver high levels of sediment to the Milwaukee
River and Lake Michigan. Cost sharing available through the Wisconsin Nonpoint
Source Pollution Abatement Program had not been enough to persuade landowners
to take the additional steps necessary to reduce erosion to levels with acceptable
sediment delivery rates. Project funding was provided to address these areas
with high sediment delivery rates. The project was consistent with the goals
of the Milwaukee River South Priority Watershed Plan and the Wisconsin Farmland
The Milwaukee River South is one of five watersheds which make up the Milwaukee
River Priority Watersheds Program. The Milwaukee River has a diversified watershed
ranging from the Kettle Moraine State Forest, in the north, to downtown Milwaukee
in the south. The Milwaukee River drains approximately 830 square miles and
includes parts of Sheboygan, Fond du Lac, Ozaukee, Washington, Waukesha and
Milwaukee counties. There are 23 villages and 12 cites within the watershed
and all the surface water of these communities discharges into the 410 miles
of perennial streams that eventually outlet into the Milwaukee River harbor.
Ninety five (95) landowners were contacted regarding the Great Lakes Basin Program
sediment reduction initiative. By the end of PY 1994 six landowners had joined
the program. Interest in signing up for the incentive project was low for the
- Many landowners who rent out their land, unsure of future renters, hesitate
to sign a cost-share agreement, which would then enter them into a ten year
agreement which is recorded on their deed.
- Landowners who have only cash crops, and have no need for hay in their rotation,
often cannot obtain the sediment reduction goal of the watershed plan.
- Some landowners are contemplating other nonagricultural uses (development)
in the future and do not care to be involved in any government programs.
- Some landowners have only small parcels, for example 5-10 acres, and the
monetary amount does not induce them to participate.
For PY 1994, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources redrafted the scope
of the project toward treatments that offered direct control of erosion and
sedimentation from streambank sites in Ozaukee County. Two sites were selected
based on severity of erosion, water quality need, length of site, accessibility,
possibilities for use of bioengineered stabilization techniques, and location
relative to public viewing and demonstration. The selected sites were Fredonia
Creek (tributary to the Milwaukee River South) in Waubedonia County Park, and
Peninsula park on the Milwaukee River South in the Village of Saukville.
Waubedonia County Park: Waubedonia County Park is heavily wooded rural
park located near the mouth of Fredonia Creek, a tributary to the Milwaukee
River South. The site is easily accessible and highly visible to the public.
Bank heights are in the 2 to 3 foot range. Rock will be used on the sites due
too the heavy shading of the area and because of the need to keep vegetation
height short in this particular area. A site survey was completed by the Land
Conservation Department staff and final design specifications were developed
by an engineering firm.
Peninsula Park: Peninsula Park is a heavily used urban park which attracts
thousands of tourists annually to the Crossroads Rendezvous, a reenactment of
life in the days of the voyagers. The park is located directly on the banks
of the Milwaukee River South an is highly visible to the public. Many old growth
trees were in danger of falling into the river due to the current bank erosion.
The project was a cooperative effort between the Village of Saukville, the Ozaukee
County Land Conservation Department, and the Wisconsin Department of Natural
This stabilization project originally targeted about 100 feet of bank for
control with bank height ranging from 6 to 10 feet, however, local funds were
leveraged to allow for the stabilization of approximately 600 feet.
As of August 31, 1994, 598 (210 tons in PY93) tons of soil had been saved and
the reduction in sediment delivery was 27.9 tons (11.5 tons in PY 1993). In
addition, approximately 300 feet of streambank in Waubedonia County Park were
controlled resulting in a sediment delivery reduction of about 6 tons/year.
Also, the stabilization of 600 feet of streambank in Peninsula Park resulted
in a reduction in sediment delivery to the stream of about 84 tons/year.
Contact: Sharon Gayan, (414) 263-8707