Mayor issues call for volunteers to fill, place 50,000 sandbags to assist Jefferson-Chalmers flooding victims

  • Rising lake levels pushing water over inadequate areas of seawall
  • Volunteers asked to sign up for two hour shifts today through Sunday
  • City working with residents, Army Corps of Engineers on longer term solutions
  • Volunteers and residents who need help can sign up at

DETROIT, Michigan – Mayor Mike Duggan and his Department of Neighborhoods put the call out today for volunteers to help fill and place at least 50,000 sandbags over the next several days to hold back flood waters in residential areas along a series of canals in the Jefferson Chalmers neighborhood near the Detroit River.  

Since Monday, higher than normal water levels in the Great Lakes, exacerbated by recent rains, have contributed to 30-year-high levels on Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River, pushing water over areas of the canal seawalls that are insufficiently high.  Maintenance and upkeep of the seawall is the responsibility of individual homeowners and several areas of the walls are lower than needed, providing opportunities for water to breach the wall and flood entire sections of the neighborhood.  While the city’s storm sewers have so far been able to handle the large volume of water, some homes have started to flood as water travels from the canals across the private property toward the streets and sewers.

To bring relief, the Mayor is asking for volunteers to sign up to help fill and place thousands of bags of sand along key sections of the seawall to effectively raise their height.   “We know that the river usually crests in early June and we already are seeing levels much higher than what is normal for that time,” said Mayor Duggan.  “We expect the levels to continue to rise over the next several weeks and we are asking for volunteers to join with city employees and myself to come to the aid of these residents.”

How to volunteer or get assistance

Anyone willing to volunteers is being asked to sign up for at least one two-hour shift today through Sunday.  Volunteers will be asked to either knock on doors, fill bags, help deliver them to locations along the canals or to help place them behind and on top of the wall.  

  • To sign up, volunteers can sign up at  
  • Residents the canal area that need assistance shoring up their seawall with sandbags can let the city know by clicking on the I Need Help button at

Mayor Duggan visited the neighborhood Tuesday morning, meeting with key staff, residents and representatives of the Army Corps of Engineers, who are all working on long term solutions to address the condition of the seawall. Council President Brenda Jones and Council Member Andre Spivey, who represents the area, also have been in the neighborhood to speak to residents.  

There are just over 300 residences in the affected area and initial estimates are that about 100 properties are experiencing flooding.  Volunteers will be going door-to-door to determine an exact number so coordinators know more precisely where to send volunteers.

To help make sure residents are properly placing bags to be most effective, the Army Corps of Engineers has been holding, and will continue to hold, workshops for area residents to properly train them.

Inspectors from the City’s Buildings Safety, Engineering & Environmental Department (BSEED) have been in the neighborhood since Tuesday and have written several violation notices to residents that have insufficiently high seawalls on their property, thus allowing water to flood the neighborhood.   Workers from the Detroit Water & Sewerage Department also have been in the neighborhood clearing any clogged catch basins to allow accumulated water in the street to drain.