Clearing the Way for Watershed Progress

BY: JACOB FINCHER, SWEET WATER

Click through the above gallery to see pictures from the event.

Through a unique partnership between the private sector, local government, and Sweet Water, and its Respect Our Waters education campaign, 80+ volunteers recently rolled up their sleeves and waded into the water to remove log jams, woody debris, invasive species, and overgrowth on two creeks in Brown Deer. The sheer mass of obstructions removed from these waterways provides Brown Deer with additional momentum toward achieving its goals of “naturalizing” (removal of concrete and installation of natural plant and rock features) these waterways. And residents noticed the difference—neighbors stopped volunteers throughout the day to thank them, while volunteers shared information about the project, its benefits and how residents can help keep their waterway healthy.

This September 21st volunteer service day event was a product of MillerCoors’ leadership and the commitment of more than 70 of their employees to increase the company’s positive “Beer Print.” Between volunteer experiences, educational drives, and awareness-raising events, the Company’s annual “Our Beer Print Month” gives every Molson Coors employee a chance to support and improve the places where they live and work. In Milwaukee, this represents the tenth year MillerCoors employees worked to complete water stewardship activities in the community.

Last year, MillerCoors partnered with Sweet Water to stencil 500+ storm drains and distribute thousands of educational flyers about what residents can do to prevent stormwater pollution. After this successful partnership, an even more ambitious project was planned for 2018, aimed at cleaning up South Branch Creek and Beaver Creek, which are both tributaries to the Milwaukee River. Blockages from debris in these two creeks have impeded their flow and affected water quality. Impaired flow leads to increased threats of flooding and increased temperature in the water that pools behind blockages in the summer months. Higher water temperatures are detrimental to the health of aquatic species living in each creek, making it is imperative to remove blockages.

Brown Deer’s Director of Public Works, Matt Maederer, has long understood the importance of protecting local creeks, rivers, inland lakes, and Lake Michigan. The Village of Brown Deer’s commitment to freshwater stewardship is demonstrated by its participation in the Respect Our Waters educational campaign for more than six years. Respect Our Waters provides simple tips to prevent stormwater pollution--the number one source of water pollution. These educational messages are shared via public service announcements on TV, radio, local news channels, social media, and much more, including the newly created “Adopt-A-Storm Drain” program.

Information about the volunteer event, Adopt-A-Storm Drain and other stormwater facts were printed on educational door hangers which were then distributed to over 1,000 homes during the Brown Deer service day event. As a result of this project, not only was each creek cleared of debris and invasive species, residents of Brown Deer were provided information on how to prevent debris from getting into the creek in the first place.

As Sweet Water looks to the future, we will identify lessons learned from this event and work with our partners—water stewardship-oriented nonprofits, corporations, municipalities and others—to increase the number of these cross-sector collaboration efforts and generate momentum for more restoration projects, public support and investment in our waterways.

Be sure to check out some amazing before and after pictures of this great event!