The Essex Region Conservation Authority is urging municipalities and residents to remain prepared for hazards throughout the winter. The Essex Region and other areas across the Great Lakes System experienced record high lake levels for an extended period over 2019. Communities across the region experienced persistent flooding and increased rates of erosion along the shorelines of Lake St. Clair, the Detroit River, and Lake Erie. While lake levels have lowered as of result of normal seasonal water level decline, current levels are still elevated in comparison to 2018 and long-term averages.
“The Essex Region has a history of significant freeze-thaw cycles that not only wreak havoc on our roads, but also elevate the potential risks of ice jamming within the inland rivers and creeks as ice becomes unstable and breaks apart,” says James Bryant, ERCA’s Water Resources Engineer. “These types of conditions are most likely to occur during the spring thaw and can cause blockages in smaller waterways leading to inland flooding.”
There are also concerns regarding potential ice shoves along the Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie shorelines. These ice pile-ups are typically associated with the start of spring thaw and windy conditions. While the conditions of our region do not usually make ice shoves a significant concern, the elevated lake levels have altered sandbar positioning, increasing the risk of these ice pile-ups. The movement of ice in this fashion has the force of thousands of tonnes of ice weight bearing against shoreline protection system docks and other coastal appurtenances, such outlet pipes, docks, etc.
Historically, the most at-risk locations for ice shoves include the Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie shorelines – east of Peche Island to Stoney Point, Bar Point (Amherstburg area at the mouth of Lake Erie), immediately east and west of the extension of the Arner Townline Right-of-Way and the western reaches of Pigeon Bay.
“Shoreline areas that have surface water outlets and or pumped outfalls also have increased risk as the difference in temperature between the lake and drainage waters can weaken lake ice near those outfalls,” Bryant explains.
ERCA will continue to monitor conditions and provide updates as required to municipalities and residents. Since 1973, ERCA has been enriching and sustaining the environment of the Windsor-Essex-Pelee Island Region to ensure it is the Place for Life.
Danielle Breault Stuebing
Director, Communications & Outreach Services
Water Resources Engineer
519-776-5209 ext. 246