Cities across the United States are evaluating their flood risks, and in some cases, they are finding that infrastructure installed in the 1960s and 70s is actually exacerbating flooding issues.
Milwaukee’s Kinnickinnic River, which locals call the “KK River,” is one of these. The smallest of three rivers that flow through Milwaukee into Lake Michigan, its 60s-era concrete lining has made flooding worse for neighbors who live in the area. Now, sewer district officials aim to return the river to its natural state, pulling out all seven miles of concrete and returning the riverbed to soil, rocks and vegetation. They’ve partnered with community health clinic Sixteenth Street Community Health Center to ensure that the project involves residents’ visions. The $390 million “rechanneling” process, which began ten years ago, is expected to last until 2035 and aims to reduce flooding, improve public health and safety and increase residents’ enjoyment of the river.