September 30, 2008

Kinnickinnic River Job Saves the Forest and the Streams

By Sean Ryan

The Kinnickinnic River is too shallow for barges, so contractors stabilizing the stream bank must tiptoe around trees when carving paths to access the work sites.

The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District mapped out the terrain and marked all trees with a trunk of 4 inches or more in diameter. Jullane Jackson, president of lead contractor DLH Construction and Trucking Co. Inc, Cedarburg, has walked the grounds twice and will do it again with Milwaukee County Parks officials to find the best way to snake trails to get heavy equipment to the river.

There are six areas where contractors will move earth to even the slope on eroded riverbanks. They also will bring in riprap to prevent future erosion.

But the goal is to establish routes that avoid large trees at the expense of thistles, undergrowth and dead or dying trees, Jackson said.

"We have to choose our equipment carefully," she said. "In some cases, we may use long reach backhoes so we don't have to bring the body of the equipment in."

The Army Corps of Engineers, which will cover 70 percent of the project cost, expected contractors to approach the project from the land instead of the water, said Carl Platz, project manager for the Army Corps' Detroit district.

"The river is not that deep, and access is difficult," he said. "So the project would've been much more costly if we would've required (barges)."

The county owns the land along the river, and the MMSD will reimburse the county for any of the significant trees that are taken, said David Fowler, MMSD senior project manager in the MMSD watercourse section. The district and county calculated dollar values for trees based on age and species. A 100-year-old white oak, for example, is on the high end with a reimbursement of $1,000 to $2,000, he said. The county must use the money to plant trees elsewhere.

By working with the district and county, contractors will keep tree loss to a minimum, Fowler said, and will help the county by removing undesirable species such as the buckthorn and the ulmus rubra muhl, or slippery elm, Fowler said.

"There are not a great number of these significant trees," he said, "some of them have already been lost to the river."

DLH and its subcontractor, Gillen Co., Milwaukee, will stabilize the banks in six areas that have worn down where storm-sewer pipes lead into the river. The cracking concrete and bent steel pipes will be replaced, and the shoreline work will prevent nearby West Jackson Park Drive from falling into the river.

The Army Corps accepted DLH's roughly $250,000 bid for the project this month. The contractor received the notice to proceed on Sept. 18 and has 90 days to finish the job. Jackson said that should be enough time to finish on time provided rain does not increase the river current and force work stoppages.

"Rain is the only thing that can stop us," she said.

Originally published by Sean Ryan.

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