Water level in St. Clair River has reached record high

Signage warns customers of rising waters at Purdy’s Fisheries, located on the St. Clair River. Troy Shantz

Troy Shantz

Businesses are keeping a wary eye on local water levels.

After sandbags proved ineffective at keeping the St. Clair River from surging in as far as its packing warehouse, Purdy’s Fisheries began installing “lego blocks.”

Dozen of the concrete blocks now line the shoreline of the Point Edward company in a bid to hold back the waves.

Craig Pyne of Ferrera Concrete delivered six more last week and has made frequent stops in the area in recent weeks. He also delivered a payload to neighbouring Bridgeview Marina, where 675 boaters moor their yachts and pleasure craft. The blocks protect marina shoreline facing the North Slip channel.

“It’s unreal,” said Pyne of the water level, using a crane to lower one of the 3,600-pound blocks.

Concrete blocks have been installed at the Purdy Fisheries docks to prevent record-high St. Clair River water levels from washing into Purdy’s production warehouse and restaurant.
Troy Shantz

Owner and operator Dave Brown said the marina has invested more than $125,000 raising and replacing 150 stationary boat docks.

“To say the least, it’s been a very costly venture for a lot of marina operations,” he said.

Brown said he began preparing for the high water after studying reports from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“We foreshadowed and looked at the forecast starting a year and a half ago, and I could see the trend,” he said.

The St. Clair River is 32 inches above its long-term average for August, and three inches above its record high set in 1986.

The river is 61 inches above its record low for the month, set in 1934.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers expects the river to decline in September by about four inches.

Brown also believes the St. Clair has peaked and will return to more normal levels in coming years.

“I’ve been in this business for 35-plus years and I’ve seen all the cycles,” he said.

“In the last 15 years we’ve had to dredge the marina because of low water.”

Point Edward has asked federal officials to create a “no wake” zone in the river to reduce the risk of shoreline erosion and danger to swimmers and workers.

The village also wants a review of the current shoreline speed limit of 10 knots when vessels are within 30 metres of shore.