St. Clair County declares local state of emergency amid flooding

St. Clair County is making emergency funding available to its costal communities impacted by ongoing flooding.

St. Clair County Board of Commissioners Chairman Jeffrey Bohm on Wednesday signed a local state of emergency declaration, allowing the county to provide funding and support for the cities and townships coping with widespread damage from flooding that resulted from ice accumulation.

"St. Clair County has recognized the seriousness of this situation and we are here to support our local communities in whatever means possible, including equipment, manpower and, if necessary, funding, " Mark White, deputy director for the St. Clair County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, told The News late Friday. 

Stephen Goetgeluck, of East China Twp., drives his Jeep on Loretta as he approaches Pointe Dr. to drive back his pickup truck to evacuate family members nearby. 
An ice jam in the St. Clair River is causing significant flooding in East China Twp. and Marine City, Wednesday afternoon, Feb. 3, 2021, as St. Clair County has issued at Flood Warning. .

White said the declaration paves the way for the county to seek additional funding help from the state if it exhausts emergency dollars being made available at the county-level.

The communities primarily impacted are Clay Township, Algonac, Cottrellville Township, Marine City, East China Township and the city of St. Clair. Other areas further north are experiencing challenges as well, White added. 

Public works departments and wastewater plant operators are inundated. But at this point, he said, none of the communities have sought county assistance. St. Clair County has not sought support any from the state yet, either. Concerns linger since water levels from St. Clair to Marine City remain elevated and high winds coupled with freezing temperatures could mean more build-up, officials said Friday.

County emergency management officials said winds pushed ice floes from Lake Huron down into the river that sparked up to three feet of flooding in spots that buried yards and cars in water.

The U.S. Coast Guard deployed ice breakers to clear ice build-up in the river that also trapped ships from traversing the waterways and briefly closed the Harsens Island Ferry.

White said high winds and low visibility kept the cutters from doing further work Friday. 

Two dedicated vessels from the Canadian Coast Guard remain dedicated to helping the county with ice breaking as long as they are needed. It’s unknown when the conditions will let up, he said. 

“We don’t know when that resolution is going to come,” White said. “The levels have risen eight to 10 inches in the last couple of hours.”

White said the county declared a similar emergency during heavy flooding in 2019. In that case, they received state support after county funding quickly ran out with a huge demand for dewatering equipment.

White could not say late Friday how much county funding is expected to be directed toward relief efforts.

The flooding comes as the National Weather Service projects dropping temperatures heading into the weekend that will prompt more ice build-up.

Richard Larson, of East China Twp., looks at ice on the St. Clair River from the shoreline at the Mariners Park / Pavilion in Marine City, Wednesday afternoon, Feb. 3, 2021.