Kinnickinnic River


Great Lakes Fishery & Ecosystem Restoration (Section 506, WRDA 2000), as amended.


The Kinnickinnic River originates in central Milwaukee County and flows approximately eight miles in an easterly direction to its confluence with the Milwaukee River. The Milwaukee River then empties immediately into Lake Michigan. The project reach, located entirely in the city of Milwaukee, begins south of Kinnickinnic River Parkway and extends approximately 5,000 linear feet downstream to South 27th Street.

During the 1960s, the natural channel of the Kinnickinnic River was modified for the purpose of conveying water quickly to relieve the potential for flooding. Prior channel modifications (such as deepening, straightening, adding drop structures, lining the channel with concrete, and enclosing the channel in box culverts) were made to accommodate increased flows due to urban development and to provide a stable, low-maintenance channel. Although the modifications accomplished its hydrologic and maintenance goals, it resulted in the destruction of fish and wildlife habitat, and a subsequent loss of biodiversity. Currently the existing concrete lining in many reaches of the Kinnickinnic River is failing and access to the river is unsafe.

In partnership with the Metropolitan Milwaukee Sewerage District (MMSD), a feasibility study and detailed project report (DPR) were completed and approved on June 16, 2017.  As described in the approved DPR, one no-action alternative and four action alternatives for restoration were considered during the feasibility study. Alternative 5, the tentatively-selected plan, has an output of 17.11 average annual habitat units over 21.99 acres. The plan includes the following key elements:

  • Remove the existing concrete channel lining

  • Widen the flood conveyance channel to account for increased water-surface elevations that would result from removal of the (hydraulically smooth) concrete lining

  • Develop a floodplain within the overall flood conveyance channel that is inundated about 12 to 14 times annually, to ensure hydrologic connection between the channel and floodplain

  • Develop a low-flow channel sized to transport the upstream and tributary sediment supply, is hydrologically connected to the floodplain, and is vertically and laterally stable

  • Incorporate an inset channel into the geometry of the riffle and run sections to provide increased flow depths during periods of low flow

  • Plant wetland and riparian vegetation (grasses, reeds, small brush, and light woody vegetation) in the floodplain

  • Plant moderately-dense woody vegetation along the side slopes of the overall channel

  • Incorporate riffles and pools into the low-flow channel geometry, along with micro-habitat features such as in-channel boulders, root wads, and spawning gravels.


The project will increase fish and benthic habitat communities and increase connectivity of the Kinnickinnic River to Lake Michigan. This will facilitate upstream passage of a variety of fish species to spawning and rearing habitat, both within and upstream of the federal project reach. The project will add wetland and riparian vegetation acreage (grasses, reeds, small brush, and light woody vegetation) to the floodplain, supporting long-term benefits to aquatic, riparian and wetland habitat communities. The removal of concrete lining, creation of channel meanders and widening of the existing channel will temper extreme flows and velocities, further improving fish and benthic habitat.


Estimated Implementation Cost:


Federal cost:


Non-Federal cost:


*This project was partially funded with Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) funds received from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.


In April of 2021, USACE and the Metropolitan Milwaukee Sewerage District entered into a Project Partnership Agreement for the design and implementation of the restoration project. Design phase was kicked off in summer of 2021.

Project Manager

Nicole Toth

Project Map