Timeline: The Estabrook Dam Through The Years

This road to political attack ads was paved with good intentions. We look back at the history of the Estabrook Dam.

What makes the Estabrook Dam so special? The roughly 80-year-old obstruction on the Milwaukee River at Estabrook Park has more advocates for its destruction than pebbles slipping through its always-open gates. But there’s just no defeating this ol’ dam.

0516_Estabrook Dam_map

The Estabrook Dam is constructed for flood control and so residents in Glendale and Milwaukee can swim and boat in the deeper water it creates.

Due to structural concerns, state officials order the gates left open.

The Milwaukee Riverkeeper organization sues to remove the dam and restore the river’s natural flow. County Supervisor Theo Lipscomb, who represents the area and supports the dam, first locks horns with County Executive Chris Abele, who wants it demolished.

A Milwaukee County judge sides with the Riverkeepers and declares the dam a public nuisance.

Lipscomb slips funding for a fish passage around the dam into the county budget, hoping to weaken the position of environmentalists.

March 2016
An Abele campaign ad blasts county exec challenger Chris Larson, a former county supervisor, for voting to fund dam repairs in 2009. The Riverkeepers file another lawsuit.

June 2016
Barring a legal injunction, or intervention from state officials, repairs demanded by the latter since the 1990s are expected to go forward.

‘Oh, Dam’ appears in the May 2016 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Find the May issue on newsstands beginning May 2, or buy a copy at milwaukeemag.com/shop.

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Matt has written for Milwaukee Magazine since 2006, when he was a lowly intern. Since then, he’s held the posts of assistant news editor and, most recently, senior editor. He’s lived in South Carolina, Tennessee, Connecticut, Iowa, and Indiana but mostly in Wisconsin. He wants to do more fishing but has a hard time finding worms. For the magazine, Matt has written about city government, schools, religion, coffee roasters and Congress.