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Watershed Protection

Using Green Infrastructure for Watershed Protection in Wisconsin

water_1.01000 Friends is working with municipalities in southeast Wisconsin to help them clean up our waterways by using “green designs.”

While we know that we can do a better job of reducing storm water pollution by using strategies like bio-swales and green roofs, many communities have local laws that make it very difficult to use these and other kinds of green infrastructure.

Our Project

With the help of a major grant from the Fund for Lake Michigan, we are reviewing local codes and ordinances to identify those laws which create barriers to implementing green infrastructure.

Green infrastructure is a proven and effective means to improve water quality and habitat by reducing storm water pollution that flows into our waterways, but there remain critical barriers to its implementation.

Our project, “Prioritizing Codes and Ordinances in the Menomonee Watershed for Green Infrastructure” addresses one of the key barriers: municipal codes and ordinances that limit the implementation of green infrastructure.

Municipal codes and ordinances have a broad impact, as they govern and can incentivize or deter green infrastructure implementation by both the private and public sectors. Modifications to local codes, ordinances, and review processes can encourage municipalities, builders and developers as well as property owners to implement green infrastructure practices.

Our program partners include:

The municipal partners for this project include: Germantown, Menomonee Falls, Butler, Brookfield, Wauwatosa, Elm Grove, City of Milwaukee, West Milwaukee, and Greenfield

Juli Beth Hinds of Birchline Planning, a nationally recognized expert, is our consultant for the project.

watershed2Project Phases
The project consists of 3 phases:

  • Phase 1 – conduct update to Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District’s 2005 audit of codes and ordinances;
  • Phase 2 – prioritize codes and ordinances needing revision by aligning with the needs of the watershed restoration plan and GIS analysis;
  • Phase 3 – meet with our municipal partners to discuss recommendations and develop strategies to move prioritized revisions forward in their communities.

This project builds local capacity and brings technical assistance for this work at a time when municipalities are facing restricted budgets and reductions in personnel.   By prioritizing needed revisions with the watershed restoration implementation plan and GIS analysis, the project will guide the efforts of municipal staff to undertake the work of code revisions where those changes will have the largest impact.

Watershed Protection Partners Map:

View larger map

Project Objectives

Three central objectives of the project:

  1. Clearly outline barriers to green infrastructure that exist in current codes and ordinances that either prohibit or inhibit greater adoption of green infrastructure;
  2. Increase the potential for  revisions of green infrastructure-friendly codes by prioritizing codes for municipalities;
  3. Further enhance the ability of the municipality to advance codes/ordinance revisions by providing new language for the revisions tailored to their needs.

While the project focuses on the Menomonee River watershed municipalities, the approach will be replicable and will help to facilitate the development of strategic code and ordinance revisions in other communities within watersheds draining to Lake Michigan. This would lead to greater widespread adoption and implementation of green infrastructure practices.

Updates: With an additional grant from the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, we were able to expand our work in the Menomonee River Watershed to include the Village of Mequon and also to start work on the Kinnickinnic River watershed in West Allis, Cudahy and St. Francis.

And with another grant from Wisconsin Coastal Management Program we have started work in Bayside, Fox Point, Shorewood and Whitefish Bay.

advancing green infrastructure in the Menomonee River Watershed