Underwood Creek Reach 1 Phase 2 Completed

Underwood Creek Flood Management and Habitat Restoration

To address flooding issues with Underwood Creek in the 1950s and 1960s, the natural creek was transformed into a concrete-lined ditch to move water as fast as possible.  Time has shown that concrete-lined channels can actually pose more problems. Underwood Creek became a danger to people during rainstorms due to high speeds, eliminated fish habitats and caused more flooding upstream.  MMSD is working to return Underwood Creek to a more naturalized state to reduce flood risks and public safety, and restore habitats.

Underwood Creek Reach 1 Phase 2 project overview

The purpose of this MMSD flood management project is to reduce public safety risk, provide wetland mitigation ("no net loss" of wetlands), and improve aquatic habitat. The project scope includes the design and construction of removing approximately 4,400 linear feet of concrete channel liner on Underwood Creek from Canadian Pacific Railway Bridge to the confluence with the Menomonee River and replacing it with a bioengineered channel. Bioengineering is the combination of biological, mechanical, and ecological concepts to control erosion and stabilize soil through the use of vegetation or a combination of vegetation and constructed materials. The project constructed a series of pools and riffles (deep and shallow portions of a stream bed) in a low-flow channel to enhance the natural functions of Underwood Creek and widened the floodway to maintain a 100-year event within the limits of the project design limits.

The project also included reconstructing the channel in areas where the riparian floodplain (wetlands adjacent to rivers and streams) was lowered to recreate a more aesthetic and natural watercourse corridor. MMSD partnered with USACE who financed 65 percent of the project costs, up to a maximum contribution of $10 million. Their services included project management, design services, and construction management oversite.

The Underwood Creek Reach 1 Phase 2 projects received a Best of State Award in ACEC Wisconsin's 2019 Engineering Excellence Awards.

"The Underwood Creek project is a great example of how thoughtful planning and engineering can benefit the human and natural landscape. Despite challenging constraints, the project team developed a solution that improved flood control, while restoring the stream to a natural-looking and functioning stream that provides several environmental benefits." - Awards judge, Matt Spiel.


The Underwood Creek Reach 1 Phase 2 flood management project addresses issues by:

  • Reduction of Flood Risk
  • Naturalize Concrete Stream
  • Improve aquatic and riparian biodiversity (variety of life and the ecosystems)
  • Reconnect stream to its flood plain


Construction was completed in August of 2018 and is in a vegetation establishment period for the next four years. During this time invasive species will be minimized to allow native species to thrive and establish on site.

Project Photos

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Other MMSD Flood Management Projects


MMSD 30th Street Corridor

30th Street Corridor

With extensive input from neighbors and nearby businesses, a project is underway to capture and store 40 million gallons of stormwater to reduce the risk of flooding when storms roll over the area

County Grounds MMSD Flood Management

County Grounds

This project captures and stores potential floodwater in one large basin that covers about 65 acres and holds 315 million gallons of water. 

Greenseams Flood Management MMSD


Greenseams® helps prevent future flooding and water pollution while supporting and protecting MMSD's structural flood management projects - infrastructure investments worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Greenseams® is an innovative flood management program that permanently protects key lands containing water absorbing soils.