The Milwaukee River - A Watershed of Opportunity

The Milwaukee River Watershed, the largest in Sweet Water's region, poses unique challenges that must be addressed with a broad range of solutions and partnerships. Jen Linse of River Revitalization Foundation will be working with Sweet Water to coordinate these efforts and ensure that the opinions of all communities, organizations, and stakeholders are heard. The following is a conversation between Linse and Martha Allen of Sweet Water


Allen: First of all, what experiences lead you to your position at River Revitalization Foundation (RRF)?

Linse: I have a B.S in Geography with an Urban Planning emphasis and a master’s in Public Administration and Policy. I also incorporated environmental policy courses throughout my graduate degree program. Over the last 15 years, I’ve worked largely with small nonprofits whose missions have centered around water quality in both rural and urban communities. The range of my responsibilities has included everything from membership development, event planning, and fundraising, to community outreach, policy and non-profit management and organizational development.


A: With your diverse work background and RRF's wide scope of work, what do you see as your role in the greater Milwaukee area?

L: For over two decades, River Revitalization Foundation has been working with partners to protect water quality and public green space by purchasing land, creating easements, completing restoration projects, and shaping policy regarding riparian lands along the Milwaukee River.  These efforts compliment Sweet Water’s work to improve water quality in the Milwaukee River Basin, and we are currently working together to determine specific initiatives that we can partner on together because of the new TMDLs.


A: Besides these projects and initiatives, what community partnerships and collaborations will be important to RRF’s work as a Key Initiative Coordinator?

L: It will be important for me to work with as many stakeholder groups in the Milwaukee Basin as I can. These groups include municipalities, engineering firms, land conservation departments, UW-Extension, the DNR, nonprofits, farmers, rural professional organizations, and many more.


A: What makes this kind of collaboration in the Milwaukee river watershed different from efforts in other watersheds?

L: The Milwaukee River Watershed is comprised of several watersheds, both urban and rural, making it unique from the Menominee and the KK. The Milwaukee River Watershed comprises a much larger land area which equates to a bigger, more diverse group of stakeholders, whose impact on water quality is also more complex. However, most everyone I’ve worked with so far is enthusiastic and passionate about helping to improve water quality. There’s already a lot of wonderful activities happening within the watershed.  My work will include providing support for what’s currently being done and identify any gaps in work that can be implemented to improve water quality.


A: What do some of these current projects look like?

L: Washington and Ozaukee Counties are piloting a farmer-led coalition group with the goal of implementing farming practices that can help improve water quality.  Most of these farming practices will focus on healthy soils and keeping soil where it lies...on farm fields.  Keeping soil and nutrients on farm fields helps improve water quality and puts more money in farmers’ pockets because it reduces the amount of fertilizer needed.

A: To you, what does success look like at the watershed level? What kinds of goals do you think are important in water quality for the Milwaukee river watershed?

L: Long-term success will be the de-listing of our impaired waters from the impaired waters list; for our waterways to meet their designated uses.  To make that happen, there needs to be a paradigm shift in how we approach working towards clean water; a shift away from working within municipal and private property to a collaborative one that encompasses watershed boundaries.  We are fortunate, in that, this crucial shift is happening amongst the dedicated and engaged stakeholders with the Milwaukee River Watershed.  We all play a part when it comes to clean water.  Patience and passion combined with small efforts from everyone will ultimately make long-lasting positive impacts towards clean water in the future.