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Environmental Improvements Our Work

Stormwater Information and Resources

Stormwater Information and Resources

What is Green Infrastructure?
Green infrastructure captures, absorbs, or stores rain and meltin snow, taking on numerous shapes and sizes from 55-gallon rain barrels to trees and porous pavers for parking lots, driveways, and sidewalks. You can see green roofs on buildings or bioswales along city streets. All of these strategies store or absorb rain where it falls, keeping it out of our sewer system, which helps:
  • Protect rivers and lakes from water pollution.
  • Keep it from becoming someone else’s headache downstream.
  • Reduce the risk of basement backups, flooding, and sewer overflow.
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Environmental Improvements Our Work

Urban Habitat Projects

Urban Habitat Projects

Floating Islands

MIlwaukee, WI
The Milwaukee River lacks bank vegetation and natural habitat for macro-invertebrates and many fish species because it is lined with steel sheet piling or concrete. In order to improve the spawning and habitat conditions, floating islands were implemented in some areas of the river. The floating islands are made of both synthetic and natural material, benefiting plant growth. Then, algae and biofilms quickly colonize the structures, creating food for zooplankton, and then small fish. The floating islands are designed to provide heavy vegetation providing food, oxygen, and shelter to the fish that are heading upstream to spawn or just passing through. Even more, these structures mimic wetlands, which 80% of native Great Lakes fish species depend on.

Hanging Underwater Baskets

MIlwaukee, WI
The hardened shorelines of the Menomonee, Kinnickinnic, and Milwaukee Rivers make it extremely difficult for plants to grow along the bank. Moreover, because of heavy ship traffic in these urban waterways, many of the river bottoms were dredged, leaving both the shoreline and bottom regions an aquatic desert. Therefore, Groundwork Milwaukee has introduced several floating islands, as well as over 200 habitat underwater baskets in each of the 3 rivers leading to Lake Michigan. These baskets are designed to house plants in-between the corrugations of the sheet piling, introducing food and shelter for fish passing through.

Fish Hotel

Chicago, IL
The Chicago River habitat also suffers from its urban location, usage, and lack of natural vegetation on its riverbank. Thus, the Chicago River walk introduced Fish Hotels. These are fish habitats that provide a portable or permanent habitat that can support algae and macro-invertebrates. Fish hotels provide food and shelter for fish traveling through the river.

Chicago Riverwalk

Chicago, IL
The hardened shorelines of the Menomonee, Kinnickinnic, and Milwaukee Rivers make it extremely difficult for plants to grow along the bank. Moreover, because of heavy ship traffic in these urban waterways, many of the river bottoms were dredged, leaving both the shoreline and bottom regions an aquatic desert. Therefore, Groundwork Milwaukee has introduced several floating islands, as well as over 200 habitat underwater baskets in each of the 3 rivers leading to Lake Michigan. These baskets are designed to house plants in-between the corrugations of the sheet piling, introducing food and shelter for fish passing through.

CHICAGO RIVER KAYAK PARK

Chicago, IL
The Milwaukee River lacks bank vegetation and natural habitat for macro-invertebrates and many fish species because it is lined with steel sheet piling or concrete. In order to improve the spawning and habitat conditions, floating islands were implemented in some areas of the river. The floating islands are made of both synthetic and natural material, benefiting plant growth. Then, algae and biofilms quickly colonize the structures, creating food for zooplankton, and then small fish. The floating islands are designed to provide heavy vegetation providing food, oxygen, and shelter to the fish that are heading upstream to spawn or just passing through. Even more, these structures mimic wetlands, which 80% of native Great Lakes fish species depend on.

HABITAT FOR HARD PLACES

Cleveland, OH
The Cuyahoga River flows through a heavy industrial area of Cleveland that handles large ships and barges. Like other Great Lakes shipping regions, the steel and concrete holding the riverbanks together and the dredged river bottoms lack proper fish and wildlife habitat. The Cuyahoga River is the passageway for fish to enter Lake Erie and without appropriate habitat; spawning and fisheries are negatively impacted. Therefore, in 2015 and 2016, gated structures were put in place along the river wall that provides food and shelter from predators.

FISH HABITAT ENHANCEMENT DEVICES

New York, NY
To improve the shoreline of the Hudson River, FishHEDs were introduced. The fish habitat enhancement devises are designed with steel and mounted on the harbor wall with brackets. The structures hang in the water and provide alternative spaces for macro-invertebrates and fish to congregate.

BIOHUTS

Baltimore, MD
Baltimore’s Inner Harbor has lacked refuge vegetation and habitat for fish passing through. Therefore, Biohuts were installed on the bulkheads of the harbor. A Biohut consists of a double layer cage. The innermost portion is filled with oyster shells. These shells attract microorganisms, which quickly colonize the area. The oyster shells contain juvenile oysters, which can grow and filter out algae from the water. Then, barnacles and mussels can attach to the shells and structures, further filtering the water. The outermost cage offers a predator-free zone for any juvenile fish.

SEAWALL PROJECT

Seatle, WA
The Milwaukee River lacks bank vegetation and natural habitat for macro-invertebrates and many fish species because it is lined with steel sheet piling or concrete. In order to improve the spawning and habitat conditions, floating islands were implemented in some areas of the river. The floating islands are made of both synthetic and natural material, benefiting plant growth. Then, algae and biofilms quickly colonize the structures, creating food for zooplankton, and then small fish. The floating islands are designed to provide heavy vegetation providing food, oxygen, and shelter to the fish that are heading upstream to spawn or just passing through. Even more, these structures mimic wetlands, which 80% of native Great Lakes fish species depend on.

LOWER DON LANDS

Toronto, Canada
The Lower Don Lands consist of 308 acres of Toronto waterfront that has been neglected over the years, as it is part of a shipping channel. The vision for this space includes merging the urban and natural environments to meet the cities’ sustainable and community goals.

THE PORT LANDS FLOOD PROJECTION PROJECT

Toronto, Canada
Downtown Toronto’s southeastern region could be easily overwhelmed by floodwaters in an extreme weather event. In fact, 290 hectares are at risk of flooding from the Don River. Therefore, it is proposed that the Don River be reconnected to Lake Ontario by creating a river mouth. This project would include over 1,000 m of new river channel, 13 hectares of new wetland, 5 hectares of terrestrial habitat within the constructed valley, and the enhancement of 14 hectares of aquatic habitat. The new river mouth will remove the flood risk to 240 hectares of land.

CORKTOWN COMMON

Toronto, Canada
Toronto has several parks that will help connect the public with the environment. The Corktown Common Park will offer a diverse range of experiences and both views of the city and natural habitat. The park contains playgrounds, a splash pad, and an athletic field. Moreover, the park is home to over 700 trees and thousands of shrubs, groundcovers and aquatic plants. The ecological richness of the park will aid in plant and animal biodiversity. Additionally, the marsh will provide both an onsite storm water management system and a habitat for birds, amphibians, and insects.
Categories
Environmental Improvements Our Work

Ecology

Ecology

Harbor District has partnered with the Urban Ecology Center and Milwaukee Public Museum to learn more about the wildlife present. In 2019, we conducted surveys of birds, butterflies, dragonflies, bats, and mammals. We found over sixty different species!
A great way to help collect information on wildlife and plants in the Harbor District is to use the smartphone app iNaturalist. It connects you with experts who can identify the species you find and keeps a log of everything you have observed.
Even within our developed urban landscape, many different kinds of animals make a home or roam through. We can improve the Harbor District’s ability to support wildlife by considering their needs and incorporating native plants and trees, connections between green spaces, and softening armored shorelines.
The Harbor District Terrestrial Habitat Plan (2020) identifies current and potential habitat areas and a vision for improving the ability of the Harbor District to support a rich and diverse biotic community.
MILWAUKEE AREA OF CONCERN (AOC)
Milwaukee’s waterways, including the inner harbor at the heart of the Harbor District, bear the legacy of decades of pollution and contamination from past industries, dumping of sanitary waste, and other degradation. In fact, the EPA has characterized our estuary as one of the most “impaired” around the Great Lakes and designated it an “Area of Concern.” Harbor District, Inc. is active in efforts to clean up the contamination, repair ecological function, and make other improvements that will allow us to remove the Area of Concern designation.
Categories
Environmental Improvements Our Work

Trash Wheel

Trash Wheel

Harbor District, Inc. is exploring the possibility of having a “trash wheel” on the Kinnickinnic River to help collect trash and debris before it floats to the Inner Harbor and to Lake Michigan.

The trash wheel, a stationary trash-collecting device, includes a water wheel which runs a conveyor belt. A pair of booms direct trash floating down the river to the conveyor belt, and then trash is collected in a dumpster for removal.

The trash wheel technology was pioneered in Baltimore in 2014 by inventor John Kellett. There, “Mr. Trash Wheel” and “Professor Trash Wheel” have collected over 1.3 million pounds of trash in the past 3 years out of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Mr. Trash Wheel is very active on Twitter and is helping to spread the word about the health of Baltimore’s waterways. We think Milwaukee would be a great place for Mr. Trash Wheel’s cousin to get to work cleaning our urban rivers, too.

To learn more about our inspiration, Mr. Trash Wheel, please visit http://baltimorewaterfront.com/healthy-harbor/water-wheel/.

Categories
Environmental Improvements Our Work

Habitat Hotels

Habitat Hotels

WHAT ARE HABITAT HOTELS?

The Harbor District Habitat Hotels are underwater habitats retrofitted for steel sheet piling. They provide multiple vertical layers of habitat, including underwater plantshiding places for fish, and food for fish, and mimic the habitat that might be found along more naturalized river shorelines.

CHECK OUT THE UNDERWATER FOOTAGE!

WHAT ARE HABITAT HOTELS?

The downtown portions of the Menomonee, Kinnickinnic, and Milwaukee Rivers are dominated by steel sheet piling shorelines, making it extremely difficult for plants to grow along the bank. Steel sheet piling provides almost no habitat benefits, but it is used widely in urban areas because it serves other important purposes: protecting buildings and properties from flooding and storms, providing deep channels needed for shipping and boating, and allowing large freighter ships to easily dock. Further, the inner harbor is also dredged to maintain depths of 25+ feet to support shipping and industry in the area. As such, the inner harbor area of Milwaukee is known as an aquatic desert, lacking habitat and opportunities for fish to find food and cover. The Habitat Hotels provide needed “pit stops” for fish as they travel through the inner harbor between Lake Michigan and Milwaukee’s three rivers.

By introducing Habitat Hotels in the Red Zone, we are connecting areas of better habitat in the rivers to the habitat in Lake Michigan. Many fish swim between the rivers and the Lake to reproduce or to complete other life stages, so the inner harbor serves as a very important intersection.

Where are they?

Habitat Hotels are currently installed in three distinct locations across the Harbor District and are marked with fish art painted in the Harbor District colors. As the UW-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences continues working on their Harbor Habitat Mapping Project, we will prioritize future installation locations based on potential improvements to habitat connectivity – essentially making a string of Habitat Hotels between other areas of rich habitat – in the Inner Harbor.
Repurposed restaurant grade fryer baskets serve as underwater planter baskets.
Water Celery that was planted in 2017!
Habitat Hotel being visited by a yearling perch!

Habitat Hotel Benefits

  1. LOW COST AND EASY TO REPRODUCE
  2. LOW MAINTENANCE
  3. NOT A NAVIGATION HAZARD FOR SHIPS
  4. WISCONSIN WINTER-PROOF
  5. MODULAR TO ALLOW FOR EASY MODIFICATIONS
  6. PROVIDES COMPLEX HABITAT SPACES AT VARIOUS DEPTHS IN WATER COLUMN
  7. PROVIDES COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT OPPORTUNITIES
  8. ENGAGING EDUCATIONAL ARTWORK ABOVE THE WATER

Project History

DESIGNING HABITAT HOTELS
We received funding from the Fund for Lake Michigan to explore habitat solutions for steel sheet piling. This funding allowed Harbor District staff to work with scientists, staff, and students from UW-Milwaukee’s School of Freshwater Sciences to inform the Habitat Hotel design process. In April 2018, the Habitat Hotels were granted a provisional patent shared by UW-Milwaukee and Harbor District, Inc.
PILOT PROJECT
We received a Mini Grant from the Southeastern Wisconsin Watersheds Trust, initiating the pilot phase. The pilot study included building 8 Habitat Hotels and installing them in May 2017.
ASSEMBLY
Welding students from Bradley Technical High School build the Habitat Hotels as part of a class project. Over 100 students have been exposed to the project and have learned about Milwaukee’s aquatic ecology. Students get to apply the technical skills they are learning to a real-world solution.
HABITAT HOTEL LOCATIONS
We work with great partners who serve as “site hosts” for the Habitat Hotels, including The School of Freshwater Science, Elementis LTP, and Paul Davis Restoration.

HARBOR DISTRICT INC. WORKS WITH LOCAL SCHOOLS

Bradley Tech students perfecting welding skills.
Students operate the plasma cutter.
Elementary students present habitat plans
Students plant native vegitation.

Project Funders