Ozaukee Treasures Network

Big Changes for Ulao Creek

Big changes are happening to a little creek that runs through the heart of the Town of Grafton and what was once the Ulao Settlement.

At one time Ulao Creek's headwaters bubbled up in the Ulao Swamp beginning in an area that is now covered by the WeEnergies fly ash dump. Watercress grew in abundance along the banks. Children swam and people fished in this clear and meandering stream. Wildlife was diverse and abundant.

In the early 1900's, things began to change. Much of this lovely creek was channeled for progress - mostly for the railroad. Later, in the 1950's, Dutch Elm Disease spread through the swamp and many stately trees along the bank fell into and over the creek, bringing tons of debris down with them. In the years following, flooding increased and the need to protect farm fields brought local residents together. The Kaul, Hoppe and Helms families and other creek-side landowners joined forces to create The Ulao Creek Partnership with a mission to improve the creek and adjacent impacted land.

Over the years, The Ulao Creek Partnership, with much support from Ozaukee County, has made vast improvements to the creek, clearing the channel, planting trees for flood control and removing invasive vegetation. The creek, however, has remained confined in its dug channel along the side of the railroad tracks, and that is how most everyone thought it would always be.

Recently something very surprising happened!

Ozaukee County Planning & Parks Department, through its Milwaukee River Watershed Fish Passage Program added Ulao Creek to its rivers restoration plan for Ozaukee. They obtained grant funding and hired Solutions 101 LLC, a project management company that goes to great lengths in limiting its footprint on a site, disturbing only areas necessary for the completion of a project. Solutions 101 owner, Jim Sykes, says "We work closely with our clients to create a plan that best fits the owner's vision for the property and to provide a legacy for future generations of land stewards."

Inspired by the conservation focus of the project, Wacker Neuson, a multi-national German based manufacturer of compact construction equipment, selected this project to field-test its newest equipment. Solutions 101 and the Wacker Neuson development team chose the equipment being used for its compact size, versatility, agility, and efficiency. Working with equipment that offers a smaller turning radius and the option to add attachments means less impact is made to the surrounding landscape.

There are 2 areas of reconstruction underway on Ulao Creek, one east of Arrowhead Road and the Gateway site, south of Hwy 60 behind the BP station. This project will work to revitalize the watershed by re-creating conditions similar to pre-settlement times in the project-area parts of Ulao Creek.

The new stream channel, designed to be similar to the original, is being cleared of all brush, small trees, tall grasses and debris using hand tools and mowing equipment. Any man-made garbage that is encountered is properly disposed of and removed from the site. Great care is taken with erosion control during the project to prevent sediment from the area of restoration to move into an unapproved area.

Wetland scrapes are being added to improve spawning and breeding habitat in the Arrowhead Road project area. Ponds will go in where appropriate. Fish, waterfowl, herptiles and other wildlife have been considered in the planning. The entire project is being done with the existing soils – no new soil is being brought in and no existing soil is being taken out. Things are just moved around. Once the new waterway has been constructed and water diverted into the new stream, the existing ditch will be filled and covered with vegetation as a form of natural long-term erosion control. Native trees and understory vegetation will be planted once the groundwork is complete. Ulao Creek Partnership will work with Ozaukee County and many local volunteers in this effort.

Sometimes things happen that no one expects and outcomes exceed hopes. This is one of those stories. Ulao Creek will have a new and improved stream bed in two places, much like it had many years ago. Watershed vegetation will be greatly improved with the planting of native species. Fish and wildlife will have richer and more diverse habitat. The Ulao Creek Partnership and many Town of Grafton residents are already celebrating a restoration of great importance, and one they never expected.


Ulao Creek runs south of the Ulao Swamp through private lands east of I-43. It flows through the Colder's property, under Hwy. 60 and behind the BP station, the Waterstreet Brewery and the Hampton Inn & Suites. From there it flows south, east of I-43 and the railroad. Near Lakefield Road it vanishes, buried underground so I-43 could come through. It re-emerges alongside of the Family Farm on the west border of I-43 and from there meanders south until it joins the Milwaukee River near Highland Road.

Friend-Raiser for the Fund for Lake Michigan - VICTORY!!!!

Dear Friends,

I am very happy to report that the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin voted unanimously today to approve payments to the Fund for Lake Michigan for the next two years. This is fabulous news for Lake Michigan and for all of us that depend on the lake for water, recreation and commerce.

The Commission's decision was supported by more than 100 businesses, elected officials, non-profit organizations and community leaders. The Commissioners were particularly impressed by the economic and environmental benefits that our grants provide to ratepayers.

Many thanks for your support throughout this process and best wishes for the holiday season,


P.S. We will have full funding next year and will issue a call for proposals in late January!

We've moved. Please note our new address.

Vicki ElkinExecutive Director, Fund for Lake Michigan

Global Water Center

247 W. Freshwater Way, Suite 537

Milwaukee, WI 53204

Ph: 414-418-5008

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



The Fund for Lake Michigan has been supporting so many of our projects on the lake and connected water systems since 2011 and is expected to continue to do so through grants of $4,000,000.00 per year through 2035 - WE HOPE.  There are concerns that efforts are being subtly made that challenge that hope.  

Please read and then consider:

1.  Signing on a Friend of the Fund for Lake Michigan, and

2.  Consider bringing this to your various organizational boards and having the boards sign on in support.


The Ozaukee Washington Land Trust's Board of Directors unanimously signed on last week at their March 18th meeting  and the Friends of Harrington Beach State Park did the same on March 27th.  


Please read.  Please act.  

What is the Fund for Lake Michigan?

The Fund for Lake Michigan ("Fund") was established in 2008 when the Wisconsin Electric Power Company ("WEPCO"), Madison Gas & Electric Company ("MGE"), and Wisconsin Public Power Inc. (collectively, "Owners") resolved certain disputes concerning environmental permitting at the Oak Creek Power Plant in southeastern Wisconsin ("Settlement"). The Settlement establishing the Fund provides for annual payments of four million dollars from 2011 through 2035 to be spent on projects that address, reduce, and mitigate water quality impacts in Lake Michigan.

Why did it make sense to create the Fund?

The Settlement was a sensible alternative for all involved parties because it saved the ratepayers hundreds of millions of dollars (which is what it would have cost to construct cooling towers or to continue litigating the environmental issues at Oak Creek) and it provides funding for projects that not only promote economic development but also have a substantial positive effect on water quality in Lake Michigan. On this basis, the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin ("PSCW") in 2009 approved all of the annual payments from the Owners to the Fund through 2035. Overall, Fund projects could yield greater water quality improvements than the alternatives considered as part of the Settlement.

An invaluable resource

The Fund has had a tremendous impact on our local economy, raised the quality of life in southeast Wisconsin, and improved our water resources. Since 2011, the Fund has invested over $7 million in local efforts to redevelop urban waterfronts and business parks sustainably, reduce pollution, restore waterways, and improve local beaches and parks.

These investments are already paying off. According to a recent study by UW–Whitewater's Fiscal and Economic Research Center, the Fund's grants have helped to create more than 485 full-time jobs while adding $35 million to the economy and increasing local property values by $45.5 million.

The Fund has become an invaluable resource to communities in the region and a critical supporter of efforts to establish Milwaukee as a global hub for freshwater research, education and economic development.

If the Settlement was final in 2008 and approved by the PSCW in 2009, what is the issue?

Acting on its own initiative, the PSCW reversed course in WEPCO's last rate case and did not allow WEPCO to recover the Settlement payments through its rates. Because of this decision, WEPCO decided to stop making full payments to the Fund. In a rate case to be filed this spring, WEPCO will again ask the PSCW to grant rate recovery for future year Settlement payments (starting in 2015). The Fund and various other parties to the Settlement are planning to intervene in the proceeding to support WEPCO's request and to help ensure that the Fund receives all of its future payments under the Settlement.

Why your support is needed

As you may know, the Fund for Lake Michigan was established in a legal settlement over the expansion of the Oak Creek Power Plant along the shores of Lake Michigan. The settlement provides for payments of $4 million a year from 2011–2035 for projects that improve the health of Lake Michigan.

This settlement was an innovative solution that saved ratepayers hundreds of millions of dollars that would have been spent constructing cooling towers or continuing to litigate the environmental issues at Oak Creek. On this basis, the PSC in 2009 approved all annual payments to the Fund through 2035. Unfortunately, the PSC reversed course during We Energies' last rate case, putting the future of the Fund in jeopardy.

Foley & Lardner, LLP, has agreed to represent the Friends of the Fund in the next rate case before the PSC, which will be filed later this year. We will ask the PSC to abide by its 2009 decision and approve the continuation of payments to the Fund for Lake Michigan.

In order to ensure a favorable decision by the PSC, the Friends of the Fund want the PSC to hear testimony on the value of the Fund to ratepayers, area businesses, and the local economy. Such testimony would guarantee that critical information about the Fund, such as the economic impact of the Fund's investments to date and the Fund's support of efforts to position Milwaukee as an international hub for freshwater businesses, would be included in the official record and be part of the PSC's deliberations.

What does it mean to be a "Friend of the Fund"?

The Fund is asking the Fund's past and prospective grantees, friends in the business community, elected officials whose communities have benefitted from the Fund's investments, consultants and contractors who have helped to implement grant-funded projects to sign on as one of many Friends of the Fund. In doing so, you will help us demonstrate that there is broad support for the Fund from across the region.

To be clear, we are not asking for a financial commitment on your part. We would simply like to identify you or your organization on a list of Fund supporters to be submitted to the PSC.

We may ask a few Friends to provide additional details on projects supported by the Fund or to provide letters of support to be submitted to the PSC as part of the rate case. We would also welcome your comments on any position papers or substantive filings in which your name is listed as a Friend of the Fund.

Recent Friends of the Fund

30th Street Corridor Group, Atlas Management  LLC, Beerline B Apartments, CenterPoint Yacht Services LLC, Cognitive Edge Consulting, Continuum Architect and Planners, Dominion Properties, Ducks Unlimited Inc., Eco-Resources Consulting, Friends of Harrington Beach State Park, General Capital Group, Hanging Gardens, LLC, Johnson Controls, Inc., Kenosha County Division of Parks, Land Conservation Partnership of Ozaukee County, LISC- Milwaukee, Milwaukee County Department of Parks, Recreation and Culture, Ozaukee Treasures Network, Ozaukee Washington Land Trust, PaveDrain LLC, Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee,  Reed Street Yards, Rexnord Corporation, Riveredge Nature Center, Rotary Club of Milwaukee, Sloan Valve, Spancrete, STEMhero, Stonehouse Waterhouse Technologies, Strategic Frontiers LLC, Vanderwalle and Associates, Vegetal I.D., Water Council, Zurn Engineered Water Solutions, Mark Brickman, owner, Brickman Consulting, Tracey Carson, VP of Marketing for Zizzo Group, David Garmen, Dean of UWM School of Freshwater Sciences, Neal Palmer, Village President, Village of Elm Grove, Alan Paul Price, Dean and CEO, UW-Washington County, George Stone, Chair, Sustainability Summit, MATC, Sammis White, Interim Dean, UWM School of Continuing Education


How do I become a Friend of the Fund?

You can become a Friend of the Fund by providing us with the following information. As an alternative, you can send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Please include the following information in the text of your email along with a message indicating your interest in joining the friends group.

I would like to become a Friend of the Fund for Lake Michigan








We hope that you will join the Water Council, Johnson Controls, the Rotary Club of Milwaukee, Ducks Unlimited, General Capital Group, the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust, the Rexnord Corporation, Zurn, Spancrete the Riveredge Nature Center, Kenosha County Parks, CenterPointe Yacht Services, Sloan Valve and dozens of other businesses, organizations and community leaders in becoming a Friend of the Fund. A partial list of the Friends of the Fund is included below.

Return this to:
Sherry Howard

Foley & Lardner LLP
777 East Wisconsin Avenue Milwaukee, WI 53202-5306 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


March 19th Conference Notes

Brad Leibov of the Liberty Prairie Foundation did a great job of explaining the economic and environmental reasons why land trusts and other public land holders ought to seriously consider using some of their acres for sustainable food production. Here were a few points:

1. The comparison of the amount of food for the table produced in Lake County,Illinois, compared to the amount outsourced, mostly from California, was staggering. Keep in mind that Lake County is positioned near Chicago much like Ozaukee is to Milwaukee. Most food eaten by local residents travels around 1500 miles to get to the table.

3. There is a solidly growing market for local food and for organic food.

4. Most local farming in both Illinois and Wisconsin is commodity farming (grain/ corn etc) that does to the national and international markets.

5. The cash return on an acre of table food crop is way higher than ( can't remember the numbers..around $2000+) compared to commodity farming, which may be around $234.) Someone who farms for local food can make a decent living on significantly fewer acres than someone in commodity farming can.

6. Both sustainable and organic farming practices do a great job of restoring and improving soils, possibly much better than simply returning them to prairie or such. (The rate would certainly be faster.)

7. Land for table food farming can be easily mixed within conservation lands, very different from what is needed by commodity farming.

Things that can be done to support local food farming:

1. Land trusts can obtain agricultural lands, place conservation/agricultural easements on them, and then sell them to farmers.

2. They can engage in long-term leasing of their own held lands for farming. They can look at this as opportunities to restore the soil and know that sustainable practices will not harm local water.

3. They might consider rotational grazing as a method to manage open lands - a method that can add to soil quality.

There were many examples given of current successes and projects as well as resources in this area. Many questions were asked and there was a lot of discussion.

Other items of note at the meeting:

1. Ozaukee County and partners through the OTN are embarking on a GIS mapping project that will create a data base for land restoration and/ or protection - combining project areas from many sources and mapping techniques that can evaluate parcels for soil, habitat, species..all kinds of information to support evaluation. Andrew Struck is the go to person on this initiative if your organization would like to be involved.

2. Dale Buser recapped many of the achievements of OTN to date, including grant support, an invasive species initiative, and multiple networking conferences which have led to partnership opportunities. OTN is in its third year of operation.

3. Update on the Bruce Krier Restoration. Although Bruce passed away in December, the project is continuing. Bruce's family have embraced it and seeing the project's completion and will keep it as a protected area.

4. There is a new resource in the area. It is Green Farm Stand, which is a free resource, like a Craigslist, for local produce and similar things. Erin Ortize created it and Dave Bishop has worked with her to make it happen. This will make it easy to find local food beyond the farmers' Markets. Check it out : http://greenfarmstand.org

5. The Fund for Lake Michigan http://www.fundforlakemichigan.org/about-the-fund/establishment-structure needs "Friends" to express support for it right now. We will be posting information on our website. Although it was newly created in 2008/9 as a method to offset damages to the lake from the Oak Creek power plant - it has been putting around four million dollars annually through funded projects to improve the lake and related waters. In the process, it has created over 200 jobs. Its funding was set up at the end of the litigation to protect the lake and was slated to run until 2035. Recently there have been moves by the PSC, on its own initiative, that make this appear to be uncertain. It is complicated, but the Fund is seeking our support as organizations and as individuals (NOT financial) to support their work as beneficial to the economy and to the lake. Here is a chance to add your name and your organizations name as a supporter.

COMING SOON: There have been major changes to the Farm Bill that make a difference in how our organizations will work in obtaining land etc. It offers some new opportunities and we may do well to rethink our old strategies. To that end, OTN will be creating another conference/ panel discussion to explore what that means for all of us. Shawn Graff and Pat Marchese are the planners on this. You will be getting more information