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Rising Great Lake levels threatening downriver boat docks

Published on

Tara Jeffrey

When Pat Burns drives along the St. Clair Parkways these days he almost can’t believe his eyes.

“This is the worst I’ve seen it,” said the 82-year-old Courtright resident and longtime operator of Pat Burns Marine.

His heart aches a little as he passes the river docks, the lowest of which are, one by one, literally being washed out by record high water levels, and with no end in sight.

It hits home because Burns built many of them with his own hands.

“A lot of docks are under water… and there’s nothing anyone can do. They’re helpless,” he said.

“They won’t be able to use them at all. They’re going to lose all the boards, especially with the ship traffic and yachts starting up — with all that wave action.”

Many boatlifts are built with their motors beneath the dock, and they’re also submerged.

“If you can get the motors out, you can put them above the water. But a lot of people can’t even get to them,” he said.

Normally, the river is high in spring and recedes in May and June.

“But it’s not going down this year. It’s coming up. It’s gone up six inches in the last week or so,” he added.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which tracks daily water levels in the Great Lakes, points to persistent wet conditions and high outflows for the exceptionally high water levels.

Lake Huron is already an inch above its record high for June (set in 1986) and above-average outflow is expected to continue from the upper lakes into the St. Clair River.

Across the border in Port Huron and neighbouring communities, authorities are providing waterfront residents with sandbags to combat the looming flood threat.

And U.S. officials have issued warnings about electric shock drowning, a threat to swimmers posed by the electrical connections on flooded docks.

“It’s an issue not many people are aware of,” said Mooretown resident Kathy Ferguson. “Whether you’re using it or not — if you have power running to it, you’ve got an issue.”

She and husband Rob have lived on the waterfront 24 years and never seen the water so high. Their dock and boatlift are still dry for now but other neighbours aren’t so lucky.

“Some of their docks are totally under water. They’re going to be unusable.

“If you go down by Mooretown’s gravel dock you can see the water sitting up on there, coming up over the breakwall.

That’ll mean it’s going to wash out on the other side. People are going to have long-term effects from this.”


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