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 Sandbags stacked by the city of St. Clair Shores at the end of Gordon Switch Street attempt to stop high water from Lake St. Clair from flooding the street.

Sandbags stacked by the city of St. Clair Shores at the end of Gordon Switch Street attempt to stop high water from Lake St. Clair from flooding the street.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

St. Clair Shores City Council approves contract for emergency flood work

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published May 26, 2020


ST. CLAIR SHORES — As the rain fell across St. Clair Shores, City Council debated just how much to allocate for emergency flood control to keep water from Lake St. Clair from spilling over onto private property and local roads.

“The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers is predicting a potential high water level this July, two inches higher than last year,” Assistant City Manager Bill Gambill said at the May 18 City Council meeting.

He pointed out that, on that day, Lake St. Clair was one inch below the record high level reached in 2019 but, with high easterly winds, was already flooding Jefferson Avenue.

In 2019, St. Clair Shores intervened to construct sandbag barriers on 14 properties, at a cost of $16,847 that was billed back to the property owners. In April, the city requested proposals for emergency flood control assistance to have a contractor sandbag or otherwise block the lake water on properties that are too low and whose owners cannot or will not erect a barrier themselves.

“There are some properties that have more extended work that needs to be done,” such as installing extended berms or other more labor-intensive barriers, Gambill said.

That’s why the City Council was considering whether to approve an emergency flood control contract to Landscape Services totaling $45,000, with an initial request for $15,000 for fiscal year 2020 and $30,000 for fiscal year 2021. Gambill said that was “kind of a starting point.”

Some City Council members worried that might not be enough, however, depending on the severity of flooding this spring and summer.

“It’s significant. Those waves were really tough today,” said Mayor Kip Walby.

Councilman John Caron made a motion to approve $30,000 for the blanket purchase order for both 2020 and 2021 for a total contract of $60,000, instead.

“It’s going to be expended as needed,” he said, explaining that the city would be repaid by property owners for the expenditures. “Just to be safe because if things are going to peak, it’ll peak in July.”

Gambill said that properties will have action taken by the city if water is flowing through the property to the roadway.

“Everyone’s received letters to know they need to do things, but some properties are repeat offenders,” he said. “In March, we started giving them three-day notices saying that, if the work isn’t done, we were going on the property.”

The motion to approve the emergency expenditures was approved 5-1, with Councilman Chris Vitale opposed.