Why Glendale Needs a New EIS

There is evidence that restoration costs have been significantly higher than demolition costs for most dam removal projects in Wisconsin.  The feasibility of this project cannot be understood or communicated to the public until the scope and costs of this project are determined, and funding is revealed.

Wisconsin law addresses issues involved in this process.  We therefore request the DNR to conduct an EIS specific to the proposed abandonment and removal of Estabrook Dam.  An EIS is necessary to comply with WEPA and NEPA and to assure that the department decision makers and the interested public have information to be able to fully consider the short and long term effects of department policies, plans, programs and actions on the quality of the human environment.  MMSD, the current dam owner acknowledges that upstream restoration and other upstream impacts are necessary costs of this dam removal, but the EIS prepared for repair did not address this multi-million dollar issue, in which the distribution of costs and liabilities need to be determined.

An EIS is required as a matter of law, not subject to DNR discretion, because dam removal does not meet any of the EIS exceptions delineated by the law. In addition, DNR has discretionary authority to require an EIS because the general policy of dam removal and the specific issue of removal of Estabrook Dam are complex and controversial and involve unresolved conflicts.  Wisconsin DNR used its discretionary authority when producing an EIS for the proposed repair of Estabrook Dam, even though that type of proposed action is specifically exempted from EIS requirements.  This past use of discretionary authority amounts to a DNR formulation of policy requiring an EIS with regard to actions involving the Estabrook Dam.

We request the items below as well as any other key information be included in the EIS.

  • Shoreline restoration has been promised by MMSD but no plans have been revealed to the public.
  • The area included in the shoreline restoration has not yet been determined. In several past documents, the area included as “impounded” by this dam has not been consistent.   Some descriptions do not extend upstream further than the boundaries of Lincoln Park, yet other measurements suggest the dam impounded shoreline extends as far upstream as Kletzsch Park.  Definition of the area is important to attributing related costs for our community.
  • Funding for the entire project is essential to completion of the project. The community has already endured nearly nine years of disruption over this dam.  Our community will not tolerate unnecessary further disruption through a stalled, partially finished project.  We urge the Department to not allow any part of the dam removal to begin until funding for the entire project including shoreline restoration and toxic contamination testing and abatement has been secured.
  • Bonding used for dam repair is not available for removal because no asset will be left as collateral to bond against.
  • Two of the grants for repair were based on conditions to be met by the repair and those grants are no longer guaranteed.
  • Dam removal will significantly change the Ordinary High Water Mark (OHWM) in the formerly impounded area. A new designation for the OHWM must be reached in order to determine legal requirements for toxic compound abatement according to NR 720 standards, which are significantly more stringent for the primary contaminants of concern than the standards that applied to these materials as “sediment” and on which basis the Lincoln Park Phase I and Phase II cleanups were conducted.
  • Stakeholders need to be informed if the upland area between the old OHWM and the future OHWM has been tested and meets current NR 720 upland standards. If testing has not been conducted, the scope of the dam removal must include this testing.
  • Stakeholders must be informed of any riparian liability in this matter
  • If liabilities are caused by the lowering of water elevations resultant from dam removal, stakeholders must be informed regarding who will bear those costs.
  • In-place covering or encapsulation of toxins has failed in the North Avenue Dam removal and has been short lived before it failed and has never been corrected. In-place toxin remediation is subject to erosion, requires usage restrictions and has failed at numerous other projects.  The presence of significant residual PCB contamination in upland areas within the former North Avenue Dam impoundment was reported within the past several weeks –presumably ignored for 20 years due to inaction or inappropriate actions.
  • This long term hazard is being imposed on the stakeholders by exposing their property to legal requirements that would not apply to river bottom sediments. This liability is especially costly for riparian property owners.  The hazard needs to be removed, not just covered up with a temporary and lower cost “Band-Aid”.
  • How does MMSD plan to identify and remediate any toxins in this former impoundment?

o   A new hydraulic analysis must be conducted which addresses major potential deficiencies in the analysis presented in the previous EIS.   This includes an in-depth analysis of potential increased flood risks associated with trees and other vegetation growing over the approximately 55 acres of formerly submerged impoundment areas, and the impact of this vegetation on: (a) flow velocities during flood event, (b) sediment accretion and increases in ground surface levels within the flood plain in these areas, and (c) a new and ever increasing risk of risk of ice dam formation, in particular, on the north end of the “oxbow” area.  Since the dam was drawn down in 2008, deposition of sediment has built islands and filled in approximately 55 acres of the channel.  This is significant on this impoundment, which official documents claim to be only 103 acres.  Increasing reduction of storm-water conveyance needs to be calculated based on the above trends rather than simply applying a static hydraulic model.  If SEWERPC is not capable of conducting such a study, it needs to be conducted by a capable firm.

o   All of the model input data should be made readily available so that the results and model assumptions can be reviewed and evaluated by independent experts.   Furthermore, the modeling study should include an appropriate sensitivity analysis that would identify the degree to which the model results (and any minor impacts to modeled flood levels in upstream areas) are dependent on input parameters with significant uncertainty.   The analysis should clearly distinguish between flood prone areas that contain buildings or structures that could be impacted by flooding versus those that are parkland or vacant parcels.

o   Dredging and channel restoration to abate the new islands and tree growth is a necessity.  Projections for future periodic dredging necessitated by dam removal and required for flood safety should be part of the EIS and future costs attributed to this Dam removal project.

  • Shoreline Restoration plans must be clear

o   Miles of sea wall and boathouses are featured.  What will be done to remediate these features and who will pay for this work?

o   Nearly a million dollars of city of Glendale sewer outfalls are left high and dry and in some cases in back yards of our citizens.  How will these features be remediated?  Who will conduct the work?  Who will pay for this?

  • Our community was promised improved flood control through dam removal. FEMA flood maps  which take into account consequences of dam removal, need to be developed as part of this project.

o   If this removal results in increased flooding, who will be responsible for the damages?

  • Water quality data used in the EIS prepared for dam repair was provided by an amateur citizen based group. Comprehensive data collected over decades by MMSD from multiple locations within the impounded area were disregarded and excluded from the analysis.  The EA should include an appropriate analysis of  changes in water quality (or lack thereof) that have occurred during the past 8 years when the gates to the dam have been left open – in part replicating conditions (and improvements) that should be expected if the dam is removed.   The analysis should be comprehensive (and not “cherry-pick” data) and include data from upstream and downstream locations to enable a credible analysis of changes that are unique to conditions in the impoundment vs those that are seasonal, variable, or occurring throughout extensive areas of the Milwaukee River.
  • Fish survey data available for the impoundment were not presented in the EIS, in spite, of impacts on fish populations being one of the most significant environmental impacts attributed to the dam removal vs repair decision.
  • Historic North Avenue partial dam removal documents suggest that agreements with all adjoining public and private land owners will be necessary to finalize plans.

o   Will agreements be necessary for this action?

o   Sample agreement documents need to be included in the EIS process

  • Damaging navigational impacts of dam removal and the associated stream depth need to be addressed.
  • Environmental justice and community outreach requirements need to be reevaluated, in particular, if any sources of federal funding will be used to conduct removal or future restoration efforts. The previous EIS concluded that there would be no net impact on recreational use of the River for either the removal or repair options, and therefore no need to consider EJ issues.   This conclusion is flawed, in particular, given the presence of neighborhoods with high percentages of minority and low income residents in immediate proximity to the impoundment area, as well as the potential for these residents to be subject to increase exposure to contamination in upland areas if the dam is removed.

Transparency is needed.  This project requires stakeholder involvement in planning, rather than just in reviewing of plans and outright denial and misrepresentation of citizen concerns made by bureaucratic employees.  The only public meeting regarding the land transfer and demolition of Estabrook Dam was held December 20th, 2016 and many impactful questions were bypassed or not adequately addressed.

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