Does Milwaukee, Wisconsin now have the best green infrastructure program in the U.S.?

On September 26, 2018, Milwaukee, Wisconsin Mayor Tom Barrett announced the City’s Green Infrastructure Plan Framework to beautify and add resilience to the city, while simultaneously helping to restore Lake Michigan. The new framework will add functional greenspace to Milwaukee streets, schools, and parking lots.

Mayor Tom Barrett makes announcement. Photo courtesy: City of Milwaukee.

The Mayor made the announcement at Brothers Business Interiors at 400 S 5th St. in Milwaukee. This historic building has undergone a major restoration, adding green infrastructure to its parking lot with support from the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District and the City of Milwaukee. These improvements have created a vibrant urban environment around Milwaukee’s 6th Street roundabout.

Milwaukee is a water-centric city that places special importance on caring for our rivers and Great Lakes,” said Mayor Barrett. “Our new Green Infrastructure Plan Framework will improve water quality while adding needed trees and green space to our schools, parking lots, and streets. This is good for business, it’s good for the environment, and it’s good for our health.

A record amount of rainfall in Wisconsin in August of 2018 demonstrates the need for cities to prepare for the threats posed by climate change, including flooding. Cities with too much pavement and hardscape face higher flooding risks and impairments to water quality.

Under a resolution (File # 180527) and ordinance (File #180803) adopted by the Common Council on Tuesday and sponsored by Aldermen Nik Kovac, Terry Witkowski, and Cavalier Johnson, all large redevelopment projects will be required to install green infrastructure to capture at least the first ½” of rainfall on the site.

The Plan also provides additional funds in 2019 to work with Milwaukee Public Schools to remove pavement and add functional greenspace to 4 to 5 schools per year. Funds will also support adding green features to public and private parking lots throughout the City.

New green infrastructure.
Photo courtesy City of Milwaukee.

Development of the Green Infrastructure Plan Framework was a collaborative effort between the city’s Environmental Collaboration Office, Department of Public Works, Department of City Development, Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, UWM School of Freshwater Sciences, Milwaukee Public Schools, Green Schools Consortium of Milwaukee, Marquette University Water Law and Policy Initiative, Fund for Lake Michigan, Brico Fund, and other business and environmental stakeholders.

The goal of the city’s Environmental Collaboration Office, or ECO, is to make Milwaukee a world class eco-city. ECO develops practical solutions that improve people’s lives and the economy while working to protect and restore the natural ecosystems that support our long-term prosperity.

ECO collaborates with the community, develop global partnerships, offer award-winning programs, and implement the city’s Refresh Milwaukee sustainability plan. ECO developed the city’s Water Centric City initiative.

Photo of Milwaukee skyline via Adobe Stock.

See Milwaukee’s Green Infrastructure Plan (PDF).

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