City to install temporary dams to prevent flooding along the Detroit River

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

Detroit — The city plans to install temporary dams along the Detroit River and canal seawalls on the lower east side to prevent flooding, officials said Thursday.

The measure is expected to cost about $2 million. Installation of the dams by city workers, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and subcontractors is expected to begin next week and should be completed by May 1, they said. 

The city of Detroit plans to install temporary dams made by U.S. Flood Control to prevent flooding along the Detroit River and canal seawalls on the lower east side. In this company photo, the Tiger Dam is being used in Jacksonville, Fla.

"Last year we had to react to the canal waters flooding streets and property," Detroit Water and Sewerage Department Director Gary Brown said in a statement. "This year we are being very proactive to make sure we have protection in place long before the river crests."

Brown said the city is acting to get in front of rising water levels.

Earlier this month, officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers's Detroit District said water levels in the Great Lakes remain high going into spring and could reach last year's record levels. 

The city said residents who live in the areas along the river and canals were notified about the installations and asked to remove any obstacles that would prevent workers from accessing the property or the seawall area. If they do not comply, then the city will remove the obstacles and bill them for the cost.

Officials said the dams are being installed to keep the city’s combined sewer system from being overwhelmed and preventing pump failure during wet weather.

Detroit has a sewer system that combines untreated sewage from homes and businesses with storm water flow in the same pipe. The pipe transports the water to a treatment plant before it's discharged into the river. 

During heavy rain, nine wet-weather treatment facilities handle overflows to reduce the amount of untreated sewage going into the waterway. Last year, nearly 7 billion gallons of river and storm water flowed to the treatment facility at Conner Creek, but the pumps had trouble keeping up.

"The Conner Creek wet-weather treatment facility serves a large portion of Detroit and several east side suburban communities," Brown said. "If it were to fail, we potentially would have another public health crisis because the combined sewage would have nowhere else to go but back up into residents' basements.

The temporary dams are made by Carson City, Nevada-based U.S. Flood Control and are part of its Tiger Dam rapid and emergency deployment system.

The system uses elongated flexible tubes that can be stacked, joined end to end and filled with water. The tubes can be stacked as high as 32 feet and linked together to cover miles. They are also reusable after drained and rolled up.

Twitter: @CharlesERamirez