Flood protections in East Riverside too short for rising lake levels: engineer

An engineer said more needs to be done to prevent a once-in-a-century flood event as lake levels rise.

Berms need to be raised by about half a metre in parts along Riverside Drive

Engineer David Killen said that the flood protections in East Riverside need to be improved. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

A dike system installed more than 30 years ago in east Riverside is not high enough to protect properties during a once-in-a-century flood event, something sections of the city have dealt with twice in the last five years.

An engineering firm retained by the City of Windsor to study flood protections in the neighbourhood said that protective berms need to be raised by about half a metre in some spots along Riverside Drive. 

"We basically found that much of the existing dike would not be up to the 100-year flood level," said David Killen, an engineer with Landmark Engineering. Killen spoke to area residents during a Wednesday public information session at the WFCU Centre.

Depending on the section of the dike, Killen said spots could need an increased earth berm or low concrete walls to contain flood waters. He added that raising sections of Riverside Drive is also an option.

"You can only do so much to hold back sections of the lake."

Rising, record-high lake levels 

Killen predicts, using upstream conditions, that record-high lake levels for Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair will continue to rise above current levels, which are already higher than a number of properties in the area. 

"Much of the old Riverside area and east Riverside area is actually currently below the current lake level," said Killen.

The engineering firm isn't providing solutions at this time, but Killen believes an adequate dike designed for a one-in-100-year lake level would be about half a metre above existing water levels.

"We may not be done yet when it comes to where the lake levels are at."

Multiple once in a century storms

Homeowners who attended the public information session looked at maps and charts that showed an updated view of where water could seep from the lake and over the land, flooding homes. 

"They're very concerned about the water levels in the city, especially in Riverside where we have experienced the one-in-100 storms on several occasions now," said Ward 6 Coun. Jo-Anne Gignac.

Gignac said the engineering firm will put together a plan to address the problems, adding that administration and Windsor city council will look at the details.

According to Gignac, homes below lake levels is a historic issue for the area, but with increased lake levels, the issue has become more of a concern. 

Part of the problem is that homeowners do not purchase flood insurance for overland flooding. 

"Today we're not talking about storm sewers or sanitary sewers and the flooding that occurs because of the 100-year storms and the water from storms, we're talking about overland water," said Gignac.

Resident baffled by development

One homeowner who took in the information found himself questioning why new homes were being built below lake levels in an area where engineers have now deemed current flood protections inadequate.

"I don't like the idea that they're building big houses below lake level," said John Matyi, speaking about new homes popping up in east Riverside. 

Homeowners were able to look at flood risk maps during the public information session. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

"They're building these huge houses, McMansions, with finished basements for $450,000 in an area that's below the level of Lake St. Clair."

Ron Renaud is the vice-president of Solidarity Tower, an apartment building which backs on to the Detroit River.

"We're more concerned with what's happening on Riverside Drive," said Renaud, who wanted to find details about what people should be doing in the near future to prevent flooding.

"I've been around Riverside all of my life and I saw the big flood in the 80s and I saw them using canoes down Riverside Drive, that's what it was at one time," said Renaud.

He believes the plans in place are to protect people on the south side of Riverside Drive and wonders what will happen to places like his apartment building on the north side. 

"Even if it's at our cost, at least we'd have an advantage to do it."


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