Sandbags fill the truck of Kirk Carbary, who lives on 10 Mile Road near Lake St. Clair.

Sandbags fill the truck of Kirk Carbary, who lives on 10 Mile Road near Lake St. Clair.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske


Flooding prompts St. Clair Shores to require residents to sandbag

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published May 3, 2019

 Paul Miriani, of St. Clair Shores, fills a sandbag behind City Hall May 2.

Paul Miriani, of St. Clair Shores, fills a sandbag behind City Hall May 2.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — When a portion of Lake St. Clair ended up inside some waterfront homes due to rising lake levels at a low point on the coast, City Manager Mike Smith and members of the city’s emergency management team realized that they needed to take action to protect residents from flooding.

“We had a property at the north end of town ... they were the low point,” Smith said May 2. “Water was coming over their property and spreading into neighboring properties and getting into people’s houses.

“Yes, it’s a civil matter, but also, we have an ordinance that says you can’t place the public in jeopardy by not taking care of your property.”

With water in Lake St. Clair expected to rise 8 inches before the end of June, Smith said the problem is only going to grow. Because of that, he drafted a notice that is being distributed to waterfront homeowners in affected areas informing them of the requirement to sandbag their shorelines to prevent flooding.

The notice states that, pursuant to city ordinance 35.013, “You are being notified to immediately provide an adequate barrier, dike or other embankment (including sandbags) to protect against the rising water, the overflow of water and/or flooding.

“In the event you, as the owner or occupant, fail to immediately provide an adequate barrier, dike or other embankment (including sandbags), the city manager may proceed to provide such (a) barrier ... and charge the cost of same against your property.”

The letter goes on to say that no permit is necessary to erect such a barrier at this time and notifies the resident as to where they may get sandbags and sand.

Smith said that the first round of letters is being sent to residences where there is already water coming over seawalls, as can be seen from the road, or because of complaints by neighbors. In addition, he said that he and a team, including the mayor, went out in the city’s police boat May 2 to survey the water level from the lake and ascertain where the water level will be a problem if it continues to rise.

“There’s probably five to six areas where we could see, on a nice west wind day ... where seawalls were probably less than half a foot above the water level,” Smith said.

He said that it is much easier, and less expensive, for homeowners to erect a barrier or lay sandbags before the property is flooded. In the case of the residence where the city had to erect a barrier for the homeowner, “We had to build a road out of crushed concrete to get the equipment out there to do it. That increases the cost of the repair.

“It’s easier to do this when your land is dry.”

Smith said that the problem is not going to go away anytime soon, so waterfront residents are encouraged to take preventative measures as soon as possible.

“We’re not just doing it to be mean,” he said.

Residents who wish to help their neighbors make sandbags, deliver sandbags or even erect sandbag barriers can do so during daylight hours at the locations where sandbags are available in the city: the St. Clair Shores Department of Public Works, 19700 Pleasant St.; Civic Arena, 20000 Stephens St.; the Lac Ste. Claire Park guard shack, 27600 Jefferson Ave.; and the Veterans Memorial Park guard shack, 32400 Jefferson Ave. Sand piles will be available for residents to fill the bags in the parking lots of Civic Arena, Lac Ste. Claire Park and Veterans Memorial Park.

Those with a large group willing to help or with trucks or trailers that are willing to deliver the bags should contact City Hall at (586) 445-5200.

“This is going to be a problem throughout the summer — that’s just the reality,” Smith said. “It’s supposed to peak by the end of June, but that doesn’t mean somebody’s going to suddenly pull the plug on the bathtub.”

To become a member of the Sandbag Brigade, call (586) 445-5350 or email Parks and Recreation Director Henry Bowman at bowmanh@scsmi.net.

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