Date of Award

August 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Ryan Holifield

Committee Members

Anne Bonds, Hyejin Yoon


Environmental Justice, Flooding, River Restoration, Urban Environmental History


Flood risk has only recently received attention in environmental justice research. Few `flood justice' studies in the US have focused on urban inland flooding or flood control efforts. I develop a conceptual framework of a paradigm shift from a technocratic, utilitarian approach to river engineering to that of bioengineering and public participation. Qualitative analysis of a combination of archival, interview, and observational data is conducted using the Kinnickinnic River in Milwaukee as a case study. I demonstrate that the channelization of the river in the early 1960s was largely the result of political pressures following significant flood events, rather than simply the hubris of engineers. Following Walker's (2009) premise that multiple spatialities to environmental justice exist, I find that multiple temporal and spatial dimensions--including scale, proximity, and place--reveal the complexity and contestability of conceptions of `justice' surrounding the contemporary Kinnickinnic River restoration project.