Small creek presents big challenge for county

Nearly half-million-dollar project would restore Mineral Springs Creek in Port after 2018 washout
By 
DAN BENSON
Ozaukee Press staff

Ozaukee County officials hope to restore Mineral Springs Creek in Port Washington after it was washed out by a severe rainfall in August 2018, impeding passage of salmon and native species of fish upstream to spawn.

They hope to do so with the help of several grants, totaling $468,000, two of which the county Natural Resources Committee approved applying for last week.

“It’s a challenging project,” county Planning and Parks Director Andrew Struck told the committee.

In August 2018, Port Washington and the surrounding region was hit by deluge that included nine inches of rain falling on the area in less than 24 hours.

That exceeded the estimated “500-year storm event” and resulted in a formal disaster declaration from the Federal Emergency Management Administration.

Mineral Springs Creek runs through Port’s industrial park and empties into Lake Michigan near the We Energies Power Plant.

“The resulting high flow rates in the creek scoured the stream bed (of Mineral Springs Creek), causing the bed elevation to drop 2-3 feet downstream of Ravine Street,” Struck wrote in a memo to the Natural Resources Committee.

The undercutting of the stream exposed a sanitary sewer line upstream of Ravine Street, prompting the city to install sheet pile and concrete that effectively created a dam with more than 2.5 feet of vertical drop from the top of the concrete to the water surface.

The dam in effect undid efforts made between 2013 and 2017 by the county, the city and We Energies to develop several fish passage projects to improve connectivity between Mineral Springs Creek, other streams and Lake Michigan, Struck said. 

Asked whether it was proper for the city to build the dam, Struck said, “There’s a certain amount of latitude they get to make on  emergency repairs. We found out about it after the fact.

“This new structure creates a major barrier for fish passage and undermines much of the work that was completed to restore fish passage, particularly upstream,” Struck said. 

In addition, subsequent erosion caused loss of vegetation and bank stability. 

The county is proposing to regrade and “vegetate” the ravine slopes and rebuild the stream with larger stone that can better resist movement during heavy rainfalls.

“It’s a very dynamic stream,” he said. “It’s a ravine stream and we’re trying to lock it in.”

The county is applying for a $250,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Sustain Our Great Lakes program and a $100,000 grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Midwest Region Coastal Program.

Proposals for the Coastal Program grant are by invitation only, Struck said. 

No formal match for either grant is required, although the county will contribute $10,000 in staff time to the effort, Struck said.

Those, if approved, would be combined with a $58,000 Fund For Lake Michigan (FFLM) grant and $50,000 from the state Department of Natural Resources Office of Great Waters.

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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