The Dam Dirty Lies: Eleven Myths and Distortions about the Estabrook Dam


Don’t let this happen…because Milwaukee County Executive Abele & Mayor Barrett are Penny Wise & Dam Dumbillegally defying 3 repair orders and selling off public
parkland for $1.00 to avoid long neglected maintenance cost, by destroying it.

EVERYONE LOSES: Read the 11 Dam Dirty Lies- Myths & Distortions below.

milwaukee river 21. Warning– Downtown Milwaukee River and Harbor
Tons of pollution, damaging debris, and huge floating Treeburg’s coming your way each year, to impede navigation, damage boats, and pollute shorelines in downtown Milwaukee River, Harbor, and open waters. See Myth 4 below


penny-wiseanddam-foolish-12.Taxpayers Lose – $35 Million in wasted new lake & river clean-up around Blatz Pavilion –and $12-20 million in taxpayer lawsuit liabilities from property remediation and value losses. See Myths 5 & 7 below


go-fishbefore-itstoo-late-1PLUS loss & destruction of our only county public recreational lake and upstream river navigation. DON’T TAKE THE BAIT! TAKE A STAND – you’ve lost enough… DNR just spent $35 million of taxpayer’s money to clean up the Milwaukee River and Lake. You and your children can boat, swim and fish at Lincoln Park again! But County Executive Chris Abele & Mayor Barrett plot to quickly sell YOUR Central City Parkland for $1.00 to MMSD and destroy it.  Save the Estabrook Dam and your neighborhood’s natural lake and river resources. See Myth 5 & 6

Tell County Exec. Abele & Mayor Barrett
The Milwaukee River and Parkland are not yours to sell or destroy.
Listen to the County Supervisors and Repair the Dam!

Truth Exposed … Read the 11 Dam Dirty Lies Below and Call Now!

Call your alderman and share the Dam Dirty Lies.

County Exec. Chris Abele..(414) 278-4211
Mayor Tom Barrett…(414) 286-2200

For updates, like the Milwaukee River Preservation Alliance on Facebook.

For the past eight years, there’s been a floodgate of lies pouring into Milwaukee County…and the myths surrounding the Estabrook Dam. Because our politicians aren’t born with a Pinocchio nose, they can mislead their constituents with slight-of-hand parlor tricks. Look the other way…and BANG, a new precedent appears! This month, magician and broker, Chris Abele dazzled us all with a plan to sell a section of your public parkland and river for $1.00 to the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewage District (MMSD).

Why? He figures by selling our public land, he can close the curtain (or perhaps the floodgates) on the Estabrook Dam controversy.  He can also bypass the Milwaukee County Supervisors—who heroically voted 3 times to save the natural lake and repair the Estabrook Dam. The County Supervisors were right all along when they voted to repair the Estabrook Dam. They know the truth about the Dam Dirty Lies.

Myth 1

The Estabrook Dam Created the Artificial Lake in Lincoln Park

Absolutely Wrong! The lake has been here since the Ice Age and accessible to generations of Milwaukee families. It was created by a natural limestone rock ledge, producing the historical full-bodied depth of the lake and upstream Milwaukee River, which flows  through Glendale. This has always been a natural lake with a diverse wildlife habitat, and the Milwaukee County’s only natural lake.

Don’t let this happen to our only lake in Milwaukee county.

Estabrook Dam3

Myth 2

The Estabrook Dam created artificially high water levels not present
prior to the dam’s installation.

Not True! In the 1930’s, the dam was a federally funded project by the Civil Works Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) as part of a program to predictably reduce flooding during heavy seasonal rains and snow melts. Also, the dam was built to retain the diverse wildlife habitat and the very popular recreational values which attracted many visitors and residents to the area.


When the Estabrook Dam was built to replace the natural rock ledge dam, it was with the permission from the lake and river property owners in the community. The water level created by the new dam had to match the existing full-body depths of the lake and upstream Milwaukee River, which flows through Glendale.  The agreement also stated the county would maintain and retain the dam.

Where the Estabrook Dam has been for 80 years to reduce flooding and protect the riverdIt’s definitely a natural lake.  According to the Wisconsin DNR, this lake, Milwaukee County’s only inland lake existed prior to the 1934 flood control project and it meets the definition of a “drainage lake”.

Myth 3

Taking down the Dam will reduce flooding.

No, it won’t! In the 1930’s the dam was built to reduce the risk of flooding along this stretch of the Milwaukee River, the lake, and the upstream Milwaukee River throughout Glendale. In fact, taking down the dam will create a much greater probability of flooding because it destroys the historical natural water levels that have prevented rapid tree and vegetation growth – which produces water resistance and back-up flooding.

Clipping from a 1937 historic document declaring a dam has to be built to reduce flooding.

proof of flood

Myth 4

The dam is “damaging” the health of the river.

FALSE, Politics are damaging the health of the river! The EPA, Great Lakes Legacy Act, and the DNR just spent more than $35 Million cleaning out the contaminants and pollutants in the Milwaukee river and lake near the Blatz Pavillion. The presence of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contamination in this area has been acknowledged since the early 1980’s, but the clean-up was not a priority for funding until 2008 – when the need to repair the dam perhaps, served as the catalyst for finally moving forward with this large and costly cleanup effort. It is now safe to fish and swim in the river. Stubbornness is what’s damaging the river and lake. 


If they destroy the dam, this will cause tons of debris and wood to flow down the Milwaukee River each year.  Not only will this destroy the vitality of the river, the huge floating tree debris will damage boats, impede navigation, and contaminate riverfronts and recreational landmarks downstream along the Milwaukee River-Walk and Harbor.


Myth 5

Only 40 people and “wealthy residents” live
on the Milwaukee River.

Not True! There are 164 homes on the lake and the affected Milwaukee River upstream area through Glendale.  The Estabrook Dam is located in the 53212 zip code however, the dam affects one of Milwaukee’s poorest communities–the 53209 zip code. All homes will be adversely affected.  Destroying the Estabrook Dam, lake, and upstream natural water levels will lower property values between 20-40% – testified by 59 area realtors and affect the home values for hundreds more within and near those communities. It is estimated the County & MMSD will be liable for paying out more than $12 million dollars to those injured parties to compensate homeowners for their property value loss.  Chris Abele thinks he is being “Penny Wise but, he’s really being Dam Foolish.” 



If you read the Distressed Communities article in the Sunday, March 13, 2016, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, you would learn that the 53209 zip code is considered one of the ten most distressed areas of Milwaukee.

RARE & PRICELESS…a connecting Lake and River in the heart of an urban setting. BEING IN NATURE (the true mental safe place) has a calm and renewing effect on our brain…to offset the stark, hurried contrast we experience daily in an urban environment.

Destroying the lake means families in urban, central-city neighborhoods won’t have easy and affordable access to local natural resources to fish, swim, canoe, and even water ski again.  NO ONE SHOULD HAVE THE RIGHT TO SELL & DESTROY THIS RARE NATURAL COMMUNITY ASSET which has been here since the ice age— much longer than the Milwaukee County Parks, Domes, or Zoo and we wouldn’t think of destroying them at any cost!

Get ready to take action!Open the floodgates on Abele and Barrett.Tell them to Repair the Estabrook Dam!

Myth 6

It will cost $6.5 million to repair and maintain
the dam over twenty years.

These are highly exaggerated figures.  Taking the dam out will cost the county over $12 million in remediation to all the property owners adversely affected plus, reduce the amount of property taxes the county would receive.  It is less expensive to repair the dam, as the Milwaukee County Supervisors have authorized to do three times – once with a super majority vote.

The county executive is being “Penny Wise and Dam Foolish”! The current budget estimate to repair the dam includes $50,000 in annual funding for removal of debris, $30,000 for minor repairs and $200,000 per year for operating expense. The DNR has authorized the repair permit, The State has secured the necessary additional money via matching grants. The MRPA  –  Milwaukee River Preservation Association, researched the costs of maintaining similar dams in 10 Wisconsin area communities.  The  average cost is only about $10,000 a year operating expense. 

ALSO … the $6.5 million dollar exaggerated figure does include a DNR-Recommended and county requested fish ladder, which promotes a fish passage and protects the fish habitat.  Now that the contaminants and pollutants have been cleaned-up…fishing can once, again, become a popular pastime in the Milwaukee River and Lake.

The DNR, EPA and Great Lakes Act spent over $35 million cleaning up the river. They repved the contaminants ad pollutants.Add a little bit of body text2


Myth 7

 No one uses the Lincoln Park Lake and upstream river why should everyone have to pay for it?

Not true.  The DNR, The Great Lakes Act, and EPA just spent over $35 million to remove PCB’s and other pollutants which restricted recreational use.  The contaminants are gone! They know the lake and upstream river is utilized daily by fisherman and  boaters.  It’s Milwaukee County’s only natural inland lake. Remove the dam, and many more fish spawn beds will disappear. The DNR just approved a $750,000 “fish ladder” to help repopulate the river. Now that the contaminants have been removed, and when the dam is repaired, fishing and other water recreational activities will again become a popular pasttime at the Milwaukee River and Lincoln Park Lake.

proof for fish

Letter from the State of Wisconsin Natural Resources (May 23, 2016) authorizing a fish passage.

The Milwaukee river and lake also provides natural resources to an urban population, exposing inner city children to a valuable natural habitat resource.  Not everyone utilizes the Domes, Miller Park, the Milwaukee County Zoo, or MATC…but it’s a resource which indirectly benefits everyone and we all contribute our tax dollars for it.


Milwaukee was built on water and no one argues the “river runs through it.” Additionally, the river helped to develop Glendale, Shorewood, River Hills, Brown Deer and other communities.

 The river is vital to our economic development as confirmed in the John Gurda documentary Milwaukee: A City Built on Water. Our only county’s natural lake inspired development such as the creation of Lincoln Park and the Blatz Pavilion which had thousands of users enjoying boating, swimming, fishing and other water sports – it was a huge recreational area until the toxic pollution occurred.

Upstream the full depth river attracted residences that populated the river banks and helped to create Glendale. The city grew out from the river and the desire to have a community with a recreational river flowing through it created an enviable destination to build, live, and work in the area – just like the downtown Milwaukee riverfront and river-walk, which is having a massive multi-million dollar building explosion.

Myth 8

The Estabrook Dam Structure is an eyesore.

It is an eyesore because of the county’s neglect.  So, let’s repair it.  The County Supervisors were right.  They added the repair as a line-item to the budget in 2008 & 2016. They voted 3 times to repair the dam…and one vote was a super majority vote. The DNR approved the repair and just extended the time to repair it until November of 2017. The money has already been set aside by State and County allocated funds  Everything is in place.  All the County Executive, Chris Abele, has to do is ask for the allocated funds…the funds are ready to be dispersed.

Myth 9

The Dam is a divisive issue for our community and we just don’t have the money for repairs.

It is dividing us because people aren’t being told the truth by environmental organizations and their politicians . Environmental organizations and City politicians have been splashing around in their own erroneous misinformation.  If they heard the truth, we’d all be on the same side fighting to save the Estabrook Dam.  We do have the money for repairs and have had the money set aside for awhile as confirmed by Comptroller Scott Manske in a September 1st report to Milwaukee County Chairman Theo Lipscomb.

Myth 10

The price of flood insurance will go down or not be required.

Another lie. Flood insurance will still be required and prices will not decrease. According to SEWRPC’s hydraulic analysis, the difference in 100-year-flood elevation, between having the dam in and removing the dam, is less than an inch (.6 inches) at the west end of the Riverview Drive and Montclaire Ave (marker 43) and at the east end (marker 38) it is less than 2 inches (1.7 inches). In the River Forest Drive neighborhood, the difference at the north end of the street (marker 37) is 2 inches and at the south end of the street (marker 34) the difference is 3”.  This is not enough of a change to eliminate the flood insurance requirement. Additionally, as the exposed riverbed fills with vegetation, brush, and trees, the water “pipeline” becomes smaller potentially causing an increase in back-up flood potential.

Myth 11

Environmental organizations are telling the truth.

Wrong again. These well-intended but, misinformed organizations, have publicly stated they support removing the dam. However, they haven’t been told the truth and have not read the Dam Dirty Lies!  Which means, they support destroying the county’s only natural inland lake and allowing tons of debris yearly to ruin the river and natural habitat downstream in Shorewood and Milwaukee. One such organization even sued the county demanding they repair or remove the dam. When the county supervisors did exactly what they requested by voting 3X to repair the dam, this organization immediately switched to reveal it’s true political motives; they began insisting on destroying the dam.

Would the members of theses organizations support destroying the dam and Milwaukee County’s only natural inland lake if they were told the truth, exposed here in “Dam Dirty Lies”?  Or, if  these environmental organizations didn’t have political ties and deviously destructive ulterior motives…would they still feel the same way? No organization wants to be associated with removing historical natural recreational values and the only naturally created inland lake in Milwaukee County. The real lake and river keepers are the MRPA  Milwaukee River Preservation Association.

Repair the Estabrook Damand bring back water recreation at theMilwaukee River and Lake.

Now, you know the TRUTH…

It is unimaginable to think the Milwaukee County Executive, Chris Abele and Milwaukee’s Mayor, Tom Barrett, would be willing to sell off our public land for $1.00. They will be destroying our lake and the river by removing the Estabrook dam.

WE MUST ACT FAST  – Or Lose It Forever !

If we don’t act fast and tell Abele and Barrett It’s Not For Sale…we will soon lose our lake forever, cheating future generations from the ability to enjoy this natural urban recreational destination. Call County Executive Chris Abele and Mayor Tom Barrett.

TELL THEM…our community treasures ARE NOT FOR SALE just like The Domes, the Zoo, Miller Park, and MATC.  County Chairman, Theo Lipscomb, and the other supervisors WERE RIGHT – in authorizing the immediate repair of the Estabrook dam and return of our lake…it’s not theirs to take.  REPAIR THE ESTABROOK DAM!

Save the Milwaukee River and Lake!Repair the Estabrook Dam. (1)

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele…(414) 278-4211  (Hit #5)
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett…(414) 286-2200
MMSD…(414) 272-5100


Thank County Supervisor Chairman Theo Lipscomb
for his long and enduring support and ask him to thank the other supervisors for us. (414) 278-4280.

MRPA – “The Real Lake & River Keepers” Email: to offer your support and tax-deductible donation which are needed to help protect our communities treasured assets.

Visit the website for more information.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *