City told to remove ‘dam’ it created with pipe fix

DNR says emergency repair it blessed in 2019 is now blocking fish; Port likely to work with county on solution
By 
KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Ozaukee Press staff

When City of Port Washington officials discovered in 2019 that an 18-inch interceptor sewer under Mineral Springs Creek had been exposed and could rupture, allowing sewage to flow into the waterway, they took immediate action.

They encased the pipe in concrete after checking with the Department of Natural Resources, which told them to do what was needed and apply for the needed permits later, Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven said.

But, he told the Board of Public Works on Tuesday, the DNR has now determined that the repair effectively created a dam that impedes fish passage, and the city must remove the obstruction.

To do this, he recommended working with the Ozaukee County Parks and Planning Department, which has secured $730,000 in grants to restore fish passages in Mineral Springs Creek.

“They would like to restore habitat in the area,” Vanden Noven said, noting this aligns with the city’s need to remediate the situation.

In return, he said, Ozaukee County is asking the city to pay $65,000 over three years to apply toward the work, to sign an agreement that the county will be consulted before any future work on the creek is done so officials can assess the impact on fish and control of Oakland Green Park, either in the form of a conservation easement or by deeding the property to the county.

Andrew Struck, the county’s director of planning and development, said these conditions are requirements of the grants that have been obtained to ensure the restoration and public access are guaranteed in perpetuity.

Jon Crain, the city’s superintendent of parks and forestry, told the board that the county’s plans for Oakland Green Park “aligns perfectly with what we have plans for.”

“I think Ozaukee County is more fit and able to get it where we want it to be,” he said, noting that the city’s parks plan calls for more native habitat and less turf in the park.

Vanden Noven noted that the city doesn’t have the manpower or grant expertise that the county does to make the project happen.

“It’s a good time for them to request this,” he said.

But Board Chairman Jason Wittek asked if neighbors would have concerns, noting that when officials considered using the park as a location for the community garden, several had issues with the idea.

Struck said the county has discussed its plans with neighbors, who have agreed to allow the county access for its project.

And Crain noted that the park is “lightly used” and would benefit from the changes.

But Ald. Mike Gasper, a member of the board, questioned whether the city can hand the deed over to the county or make changes to the park. The land was donated by We Energies, and there may be restrictions tied to that, he said.

The county doesn’t need the deed to the land, Struck said, noting a conservation easement would do. This would ensure public access to the park, he said, even as the county and city “do what we can to make Mineral Springs Creek sustainable.”

The board agreed to the county’s request, including transferring the deed to the property as long as there are no prohibitions on this. The county will now draw up a memorandum of understanding and deed transfer for the Common Council to consider.

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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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