New fence along Kinnickinnic river considered short-term solution to deadly problem

NOW: New fence along Kinnickinnic river considered short-term solution to deadly problem

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Crews are installing four miles of fencing along critical parts of the Kinnickinnic River in Milwaukee near critical areas like S. 27th and Loomis, where a 10-year-old boy and two men died after falling into rushing rain water in June.

Some of that fencing is starting to go up as of Monday. Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewage District [MMSD] officials said this is a temporary solution they worked on together with the community.

District 13 Alderman Scott Spiker said they worked with members of the Islamic community and kids from the Zablocki school who live nearby.

"One of the excellent suggestions made was -- well, you might have a sign that makes sense to you, but what we really want is for the community that's affected, for it to resonate with them," said Ald. Spiker, referring to the signs warning against climbing the fence.

"One [person dead] is too many," said MMSD Executive Director Kevin Schafer, "So what we need to do now is move forward, the fencing will help, but we need to get the concrete out."

Schafer says the concrete lining of the Kinnickinnic River was installed in the 60s to move floodwater along faster.

"These concrete channels should've never been placed," said Schafer.

According to Schafer, new knowledge about flood management dictates that now they can't even repair the aging channel because it's considered such a bad idea.

"What they did is create some really unsafe conditions," said Schafer, referring to the initial installation of the channel.

Simply removing the channel isn't possible however, as it would need to be replaced with new, more sophisticated flood management systems.

"It's a collaboration with other governments, trying to really have the end goal of less flooding in a safer environment," said Schafer.

He said looking to the future, they're keeping an eye on infrastructure funding in bills like some Congress is working on now, and continuing to develop other projects to manage water better.

Alderman Spiker said for now, the community is demanding a solution.

"What we want, aldermen, ultimately, is for this to never happen to another family," said Spiker. "Of course that cannot be promised, but today we take a great step in that direction."

Officials said that long-term solution could take up to 10 years, as well as hundreds of millions of dollars.

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