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Judge could impose fines on Milwaukee County for not repairing dam

A Milwaukee County Circuit Court judge said Wednesday he will decide by the end of next week whether to enforce specific repair deadlines on the Estabrook Dam.

Judge Christopher Foley told Roy Williams, attorney for defendant Milwaukee County, and Karen Schapiro, attorney for plaintiff Milwaukee Riverkeeper, that he would let them know by Feb. 7 whether he has the authority to penalize the county.

Milwaukee Riverkeeper has requested the court enforce deadlines requiring the county to release a final environmental impact report by the end of February, and a draft of an environmental assessment by the end of April.

If the county does not repair or remove the dam by Dec. 31, Foley said in court, he definitely has the authority to fine it.

What Foley will consider over the next week and a half is whether he can legally penalize the county if it misses the February and April deadlines, he said.

Williams said the county will not agree to pay fines for missing those deadlines. He refused further comment.

After the hearing, Schapiro said the group did not have a problem with the county’s proposed timeline.

However, Schapiro said in court, because the county has missed several deadlines on the project, the group wants the court to require the county to meet its timeline, and possibly enforce penalties if it does not.

Estabrook Dam has been the subject of multiple orders for repair or removal by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources since 1995.

When the county failed to meet a 2011 deadline for notifying the DNR of its intentions to repair or remove the dam, Milwaukee Riverkeeper filed suit, according to court documents.

Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Jeffrey Conen granted summary judgment to Milwaukee Riverkeeper on June 21, 2012, declaring the dam a nuisance and ordering the county to submit abatement plans. The case has since been transferred to Foley.

According to the draft timeline submitted by the county, dam rehabilitation is estimated to cost $3.75 million. Milwaukee County will provide $3.25 million and the DNR will provide $500,000 in grants.

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