The city of Detroit plans to start installing temporary dams made from flexible vinyl tubing in early April in a $2 million project to protect against rising Detroit River levels.
City crews, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and subcontractors will do the work, expected to finish by May 1, according to a news release. The barriers along the the river and canal seawall on the city's lower east side are an attempt to guard against flooding that ravaged the Jefferson Chalmers neighborhood in 2019.
The city wants to protect its sewer system from getting overloaded and failing during storms, the release said, including the Conner Creek wet weather treatment facility.
"The Conner Creek wet weather treatment facility serves a large portion of Detroit and several east side suburban communities," Detroit Water and Sewerage Department Director Gary Brown said in the release. "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."
Detroit is aiming to be "proactive" instead of reactive when it comes to flooding, Brown said in the release.
The temporary Tiger Dam system is made by U.S. Flood Control Corp. of Carson City, Nevada, which are part of International Flood Control of Calgary.
The tubes are a replacement for traditional sandbags and can be quickly deployed, the company said. Once in place, they are filled with water to block floodwaters.
Once the flood risk is gone, the tubes can be emptied and moved.
The product "may be able to divert up to 100 percent of floodwaters," the company website says. They can be rolled up and stored after use.
The system Detroit is using is made up of stacked, flexible tubes filled with water. They can be stacked up to 32 feet high, weigh 65 pounds each without water and 6,300 pounds each filled.
"Last week, residents were notified of the coming installation of the dam and directed to remove any obstacles to accessing the property or the seawall area from that portion of their property," the city's release said. "If residents do not comply, the city will remove the obstacles and, if necessary, bill the property owner for the cost."
Rising water levels have become an increasingly prominent issue in Michigan, eroding shorelines across the state and prompting lawmakers late last year to urge Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to declare a state of emergency.