Removing dam opens 25 miles

of river to fish

The removal of a 165-year-old dam in Campbellsport, Wis., opened fish passage in the uppermost 25 miles of the Milwaukee River and restored 22 acres of wetlands.


The Mill Pond Dam in Campbellsport, Wis., was a community icon for more than 150 years. But when the aging wooden structure that created the pond began to falter, the community had a choice: Spend up to $500,000 to repair the dam or allow state and federal agencies to remove it. Village residents voted in 2009 to remove the dam instead of repairing it. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration provided a $684,519 grant from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative study fish populations in the river before and after dam was removed. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources provided another $50,000 for the project. Removing the dam gave fish and other aquatic life access to the uppermost 25 miles of the Milwaukee River. The project also restored wetlands that were submerged under the millpond since 1846. The project is expected to increase fish and wildlife populations in that stretch of the river.

Resource Challenges Addressed

  • Lack of fish passage
  • Loss of wetlands
  • Fragmentation of a river ecosystem
  • Sediment build up
  • Abnormal warming of water temperatures


A small dam with water flowing over it

Dams, like the one shown here, block the natural flow of water and prevent fish and aquatic wildlife from traveling upstream. Credit: Mara Koenig U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Results and Accomplishments

The project opened fish passage throughout the uppermost 25 miles of the Milwaukee River. It also restored about 22 acres of wetlands and 3,000 feet of free flowing river, which restored the river’s natural flow and provided more habitat for fish and wildlife.