Water covers Jefferson Avenue at Millenbach Street July 2.

Water covers Jefferson Avenue at Millenbach Street July 2.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske

With high water levels, St. Clair Shores working to keep roads dry

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published July 5, 2019

 A pump is set up on Jefferson Avenue, south of Masonic Boulevard, to remove water from the street.

A pump is set up on Jefferson Avenue, south of Masonic Boulevard, to remove water from the street.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske


ST. CLAIR SHORES — Living at the east end of Lincoln Street, Sue Rothe said that she feels badly that the city is having to work so hard to keep water off of the road.

Often, however, it’s impossible to turn onto her street from Jefferson Avenue without traversing a large puddle.

“I see them working on it all the time,” she said July 2.

City Manager Mike Smith said that there is standing water in the edge lanes of Jefferson Avenue in so many spots because many of the storm drains are at a lower level than the current level of the lake.

“That’s lake water coming in through the drain,” he said.

In certain spots, the city’s Sewer Division has plugged the drain to prevent lake water from backing up onto the street, “but then the problem is, when it rains, it doesn’t drain.”

A city worker who did not want to be identified explained that there were about eight pumps set up along Jefferson Avenue along the lowest points in the road. That allows the department to plug the drain and pump out the water to another location.

But Smith said that is only possible in certain spots because “you’ve got to have somewhere to pump it.”

“We can’t run hundreds and hundreds of feet of hose to get to the lake,” he said.

However, he said, although the ponding and puddles appear to be standing water, the water is actually circulating every time it rains. He explained that it’s a tough call to make to leave that water there.

“If and when we ever get a lengthy dry spell, that may be one of those things where we have to go in there and pump it to a sanitary (sewer), which we don’t like to do that” because of the risk of basement backups in the area from the excess water in the sanitary sewer system.

“If I’ve got to make a choice between a street and the basement, I’m going to make the choice for the street every time,” he added.

The seven employees in the Sewer Division have been working around the clock to try and mitigate the flooding in Jefferson Avenue. One employee is on call at all times, and if it rains, every employee is called back into work.

“There’s no question there’s thousands of hours of overtime,” Smith said. “Every time it rains, we’ve got to have people come in and fire up those pumps. That doesn’t include the sandbagging and everything else.”

Smith urged drivers to be careful when driving along the road as a courtesy to those living along Jefferson, and to keep the pumps in working order.

“Someone decided they could go really fast through the puddle ... sent a wave up and covered the pump,” he said. “That wave you’re sending up is going on to someone’s property. Be considerate.”

The most recent report from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers states that “they do not anticipate Lake St. Clair to do anything, up or down, through the month of July,” Smith said.

“A normal year, you would see the water start going down.”

Kimberly Lambert, who lives on the east side of Jefferson Avenue, just south of Masonic Boulevard, said that trying to drive down Jefferson Avenue from 11 Mile Road up to Masonic Boulevard is difficult because of the flooding.

“Trying to pull into our driveway sometimes is a nightmare because of all the people behind you,” she said.

Living on the lake, she said that her basement flooded because a lot owned by the city did not have a seawall, so water came onto land during the first period of flooding months ago and then flowed through yards initially.

“It seeped through our basement,” she said. “They built it up (since that time), but the damage was already done.”

Although the standing water on Jefferson is frustrating, she said that she can see that the city is trying to keep it as dry as possible.

“They’re running the pumps all day long, trying to keep things at their best,” she said.