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Meinecke Sewer Project Under Way; Tree Losses Identified

One side or the other, for the most part, 90th Street residents learn whether their street trees will stay or go.

Anyone who wishes to get a small taste of what will look like during the next year and a half need only pay a visit to the neighborhood of North 90th Street and Menomonee River Parkway.

The parkway is closed from Swan Boulevard to Hoyt Park Drive (the short connector between the parkway and Ludington Avenue) and excavation there has begun. Traffic has been detoured onto West North Avenue and Ludington.

At 91st Street on the parkway, in a deep hole sheathed in steel retainers, a worker attacks a 1930s-era sewer connection. Lines there will be replaced with new 30-inch PVC plastic pipes, just a small forerunner of what's to come elsewhere.

Sections of huge concrete pipe have been delivered and sit waiting their turn, the biggest bearing the notation, Meinecke – 84", denoting their 7-foot diameter. Even they aren't the largest the project will entail – some stormwater pipes coming down the last stretch of Meinecke Avenue from North 86th Street and then down 90th to the parkway will be 9 and 10 feet in diameter.

Crews from Globe Contractors, the winning bidder on the project, are also beginning work on the "box" collector across from the foot of 90th Street, where all the waters from the project area will pour into the Menomonee River.

Fate of trees determined

On 90th Street, city forestry crews began trimming some trees on Monday.

Those are the – or at least that's the intention. Some of the cuts are intended to protect trees that might otherwise be damaged or destroyed by being in the way of 30-foot crane arms swinging buckets of dirt or gravel or lifting massive pipes.

In some cases, the trimming is being done just to improve the health and shapeliness of the trees. Some of those, however, may be found to be diseased or unsound. If so, they will go.

For many trees – about half of them, it turns out – no trimming and shaping is being done at all. They are done for.

A city forester on the job Wednesday afternoon said that soon – perhaps still this week – the Globe crews will start taking down the trees that won't be saved.

Those trees are not marked with the red or orange paint splotches that usually denote doom for a tree. They don't have to be. It's a simple equation, the city worker said.

From Menomonee River Parkway to Jackson Park Boulevard, all the trees on the west side of the street will be taken down. From Jackson Park to Meinecke Avenue, all the trees on the east side will go down.

That's more or less true, said City Engineer Bill Wehrley, although there are some few exceptions.

"In one place, there are two big old elms right across from one another," he said. "We're asking the contractor to try and save them both.

"But in another case, north of there, there's another big elm that we wanted to save, but the foresters took a good look at it and, they said – 'Oh, no, it's got Dutch elm disease.' So it would go, regardless – either way."

Wehrley said that residents of 90th have been informed of the fate of the trees fronting their homes, insofar as the city now knows.

Gravity rules

The Meinecke Project is a designed to protect homes that are north and west of 90th Street. In repeated large floods since 1997, basements in scores of residences north of Meinecke and between 80th and 90th streets have been inundated by sewer backups, often to the rafters, often five, six and seven times.

The 80-year-old sewer system is failing, in part because of age and in part because there is just more rain falling these days. According to researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, .

Nobody in City Hall is talking about climate change, but the facts have been noted: In 1997, 1998, 2008, 2009 and twice in 2010, at or near the 100-year, or 1 percent likelihood, rain event level have occurred. The last, on July 22, 2010, was a 500-year event, flooding more than 600 homes.

The Meinecke area incorporated in the project has been one of the most affected by flooding in the whole city. That's because it sits in a shallow basin, or "bowl," carved out by the last glacier to visit the neighborhood about 11,000 years ago.

The shortest route to the river from that basin runs down 90th Street, which is the route of the existing and now inadequate 54-inch outfall pipe from the Meinecke neighborhood.

Neighbors on 90th, though, are understandably miffed. They haven't suffered much in the way of flooding. Geology has favored them by giving them a steeper and more direct grade to the river.

And that, of course, is why their street provides the shortest and cheapest route for gravity to deliver water from above to below.

A worker for Globe Contractors put it succinctly.

"It isn't pretty," he said. "But this is where it is, and it has to be done."

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For more information, visit the city's Meinecke project website - www.wauwatosa.net/meinecke.

jbw June 21, 2012 at 06:37 AM
They could introduce some trees other than Elm and Green Ash when they're done, right?
TJ Monday June 21, 2012 at 12:50 PM
Death on 90th St. The City pulled one over on the good citizens there. The City has admitted to and apologized for not informing the 90th St. residents of the Project and its magnitude. The City refused the residents even a 2 week delay in starting the Project so the residents.could better understand the decisions and alternatives that led to this destruction. The 90th St. citizens were not necessarily opposed to the Project, just extremely inquisitve as to alternatives, including why routing down a narrow, tree-lined street. The portion of 90th St. south of North Ave. is represented by the 2nd Aldermanic Dist., which had an aldermanic vacancy for many months until just after the Project got started. The Budget and Finance Committee that approved the huge expenditure had no appointed representation from the 2nd Dist., even though the other 7 Districts were represented. Intentional underrepresentation? The voting and "debate" in the City Council and various committees was always "soviet style", predetermined and unanimous for this Project, even including Ald. Causier in the 2nd Dist, and even when the Project went way over budget by millions, It appears the Project was successful due to emotional pleas from Meinecke residents, one even claimng her childrens' lives had been permanently affected. They will profit handsomely by having bought into somewhat distressed properties, and then having that distress potential removed by City taxpayers and 90th St. owners.
Random Blog Commenter June 21, 2012 at 02:20 PM
The aging Wauwatosa sewer system will all have to be replaced within the next 10-20 years. Everyone will flip the bill and suffer the impact eventually. Someone has to be first. 10 years from now when some other street sees the bulldozers, the 90th street folks will be relaxing on their porch saying "I'm glad we are done with that." I do agree with you that the Meinecke folks will gain some equity when this project is complete, but the city is going to reassess next year and they need to figure out how to incorporate that gain into the new assessment for those homes. Hopefully, the city will learn from this and improve their information dissemination process. "Intentional underrepresentation?" Why yes, Eric Meaux getting a job in Arizona is simply a massive conspiracy against the good folks of 90th Street. It's hard to take people seriously when they bandy stuff like this around.
Jim Price June 21, 2012 at 02:20 PM
Absolutely. The forestry section has expanded its selection of street trees considerably. However, I have been remiss in not getting that list published. Thanks for the reminder!
Jim Price June 21, 2012 at 02:25 PM
Oh, and also, the city hasn't actually planted any elms since the Dutch elm disease ravage began long ago. The elms referred to in the story are a few old survivors from before the disease appeared. The green ash was planted to replace the elms, but now ash is threatened by the emerald ash borer, so it is highly unlikely that any more of those will be planted, either. In fact, the city has a stated policy of treating any other species preferentially over ash, if there's a choice between one or the other.
TJ Monday June 21, 2012 at 09:45 PM
Dear Random: Please back up your statements. 1 - "Tosa sewer system will ALL have to be replaced within the next 10-20 years." What is your source for this? Tosa is 13.2 sq. miles and 45,000 residents, not counting all the businesses and institutions. And certainly, most sewer upgrades will not be nine ft. diameter or greater sewer pipes 25 ft. deep or deeper like on 90th. You miss a big point, 90th St. does not even tap into that huge pipe, its for Meinecke only.. 2 - "city is going to reassess next year and they need to figure out how to incorporate that [equity] gain into the new assessment for those [Meinecke] homes. In the May Budget and Finance Mtg., the City Administrator said there would be no quick reassessment of Meinecke house upward or 90th St. homes downward. Instead, comps will be used. Of course, it wilt lake years to get enough comps after the Project to show the impact on both streets. 3 - "massive conspiracy". I did not say that. Intentional? Appearances count. Massive conspiracy? No, it did not need to be massive. Can you support your bandy arounds?
alt ideas needed June 24, 2012 at 02:27 PM
I now hate and dispise the community and employees of Wauwatosa. Wauwatosa city officials have made the village an undesirable place to live. when you think about Wauwatosa, high taxes and fecal mater in the basement is the first things that should come to mind. F.U. Wauwatosa

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