Vehicles pass through a flooded portion of Jefferson Avenue at Lanse Street, north of Martin Road, April 29 in St. Clair Shores.

Vehicles pass through a flooded portion of Jefferson Avenue at Lanse Street, north of Martin Road, April 29 in St. Clair Shores.

Photo by Kristyne Demske


Lake levels nearing historic highs, flooding concerns rise around Lake St. Clair

Concern around Lake St. Clair, flooding in St. Clair Shores

By: Kristyne E. Demske, Julie Snyder | C&G Newspapers | Published April 30, 2019

 Water is hitting, and in some places covering, the docks at the Harley Ensign Memorial Boat Launch located at the end of S. River Road in Harrison Township.

Water is hitting, and in some places covering, the docks at the Harley Ensign Memorial Boat Launch located at the end of S. River Road in Harrison Township.

Photo by Julie Snyder

 A pump moves water from an overflowing storm sewer catch basin back into Lake St. Clair on 10 Mile Road in St. Clair Shores.

A pump moves water from an overflowing storm sewer catch basin back into Lake St. Clair on 10 Mile Road in St. Clair Shores.

Photo by Kristyne Demske

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“We’re going to all go under here. There is no drainage.”

Ken, Harrison Township mobile home resident

HARRISON TOWNSHIP/ST. CLAIR SHORES — Lake levels are reaching historic highs, and experts say those levels are projected to increase during the month of May.

According to a press release by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on April 26, Lake St. Clair is 8 inches above the level from March, and just 1 inch below the record high from 1986.

“The lake levels are almost at historic highs,” Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller said April 30. “And the Army Corps of Engineers predict that they will go up more — 6 inches to a foot.”

The almost sudden rise is the result of a snowy winter in northern Michigan followed by recent rain and easterly winds that caused choppy waters and brought large waves far ashore.

“We had a cold winter, but not a lot of snow,” Miller said. “But they did up north. It all comes downstream.”

Lake St. Clair is up just like all the Great Lakes.

The report by the Corps of Engineers’ NOAA Center for Operational Oceanic Products and Services International Joint Commission, Detroit District, for Lake Superior is 4 inches above what it was a month ago, while the levels of lakes Michigan, Huron, St. Clair and Erie are 7 to 8 inches above their levels of a month ago. Lake Ontario has risen 12 inches in the same time frame.

In addition, all of the Great Lakes are higher than their levels of a year ago, ranging from 3 inches above last year’s level for Lake Erie, to 9 inches above last year’s level at Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. Lake Superior is also just an inch below its April record high levels.

Officials report that all of the lakes are projected to continue their seasonal rise over the next 30 days. Lake Superior, Lake Michigan and Lake Huron are projected to climb 4 inches, while Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie are predicted to rise an inch. Lake Ontario is forecasted to rise 11 inches over the next month as well.

Keith Kompoltowicz, chief of watershed hydrology with the Army Corps of Engineers, said the next weekly report will be released the morning of May 3, and a six-month forecast report will be released later, possibly on May 6, after press time.

“The six-month forecast will give a better indication of what water levels will be this summer,” Kompoltowicz said. “We’re looking at higher levels this summer because of how wet it’s been. Water levels rose significantly over the past couple of weeks.”

Miller said it usually peaks around mid-summer.

“The only thing that controls those lake levels is the weather god,” she said. “It’s dangerously high for homeowners.”

As flooding became a concern last week, it was recommended that those living along the shoreline of Lake St. Clair protect their homes with sandbags. At press time, Harrison Township Supervisor Ken Verkest said the township was distributing sandbags to residents and there were four sand piles around the township that could be used for filling them: Lakeshore Drive and Riverdale Street; Old North River Road; South River Road and Father Street; and Jefferson Avenue across from Sunnydale Street.

An 11-year Harrison Township resident who wished to only be referred to by his first name, Ken, said last week that he and his neighbors in the Blue Sky Mobile Home Village on Jefferson Avenue and Crocker Boulevard are concerned about what will happen to their homes, as well as the roads, should the water continue to rise.

“We’re going to all go under here,” he said. “There is no drainage.”

Ken said the potential flooding would also further damage the already deteriorating streets around the community.

“These roads are just terrible,” he said.

Miller, a Harrison Township resident, said many people who experienced the flooding of 1986 eventually raised their lots and seawalls to be better prepared for any future major flood occurrence.

“But that was 30 years ago, and there are new residents who have not been through high waters like this,” she said, adding that the Public Works Office is regularly monitoring storm drains and open drains for any backups.

Miller also said that the high lake levels, while a threat to homeowners and businesses in those affected areas, are advantageous to freighters and boaters. It’s also a good thing for fishing enthusiasts.

 Mark Carlson, of Fraser, took advantage of the situation April 30 and went fishing at the Harley Ensign Memorial Boat Launch at the end of South River Road.

“I would say it’s up about 2 feet,” said Carlson, who was able to snare a sizeable perch and a catfish that morning. “I remember it being up like this in the past. It’s good for boating and good for fishing.”

Dan Chimelak, co-owner of Lakeside Fishing Shop, 25110 Jefferson Ave. in St. Clair Shores, said that the high east winds are contributing to the elevated levels of Lake St. Clair.

“I keep my boat down in the Detroit River and I had a hard time getting in it,” he said, because he had to climb up into the boat instead of stepping down from the dock. As the captain of a charter fishing boat for 40 years, Chimelak said this is the highest he’s seen the level of the lake.

“The people who live around here ... are worried about it coming into their houses. It was washing over the seawalls,” he said.

Ken Green has lived at his home on the east end of 10 Mile Road in St. Clair Shores for seven years. He said that his home sits higher than some others, and the water has still been crashing over his seawall.

Tom Joysey owns the Miller Marine BP gas dock, 24770 Jefferson Ave. in St. Clair Shores. He said water from the lake washed over the cement wall April 29, and he’s concerned about water coming into the store. Over the 11 years he’s been in business, he said this is the highest that it’s ever gone.

“People can’t even walk to their boats,” he said.

He said that typically, the lake either rises or stays at its current level until late June or early July before levels drop, and if lake water continues to wash over seawalls, it can cause irreparable damage, washing out the fill dirt behind the wall and leading it to cave in later.

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