Detroit Today: Jefferson Chalmers residents work to reduce flooding damage from climate change

Jefferson Chalmers community stakeholders joined “Detroit Today” to share updates about the neighborhood’s agenda to update infrastructure.

A flooded Jefferson Chalmers neighbohood in Detroit, Mich. in 2019.

A flooded Jefferson Chalmers neighbohood in Detroit, Mich. in 2019.

Detroit’s Jefferson Chalmers neighborhood maintains beautiful Venice-like blocks that feature inland waterways that often run right through residents’ backyards.

It is literally at the water’s edge, and in some ways, the water is as much a part of the historic neighborhood as its residents.

But now that we can expect violent storms and heavy rainfall to hit Detroit more frequently, Jefferson Chalmers has become a vulnerable community.

In 2022, the city of Detroit presented $161 million to close the connection of two canals to the river and install a removable stop-log dam. Residents blocked the proposal, citing concerns that the move would disconnect people from the river and destroy Jefferson Chalmers’ character.

Instead, some residents are trying to help the area acquire $41 million to create wetlands and levees on the Detroit River and to fund a seawall on the canals.

Guests, including Jefferson Chalmers community stakeholders, joined Detroit Today to share updates about the neighborhood’s agenda to improve infrastructure.

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Jay Juergensen is the lead organizer of the Jefferson Chalmers Water Project. He says the shoreline can be naturalized and seawalls constructed where appropriate because the current solutions are not adequate to maintaining the neighborhood.

“Even the disaster recovery resources that are coming from the city — we’re locked out of that,” Juergensen reveals.

Reverend Michelle Baylor is the pastor along with her husband at Immanuel Grace AME Church in Jefferson Chalmers. Baylor describes the flooding issues the church has experienced.

“In 2021, our fellowship hall, which is about eight feet tall, was full of water and sewage. And everything was gone,” she says.

Blake Grannum is a born and raised resident of Jefferson Chalmers. She says that “dope people come out of Jefferson Chalmers.”

“There’s nothing like it on Earth to me. The diversity of the community, not just culturally but also economically — you can’t really get that anywhere,” says Grannum.

Richard Rood is a professor of climate and space sciences and engineering at the University of Michigan. Rood believes individuals can’t combat climate change alone — it needs to be done collectively.

“It’s a good idea to try to look at regional scale approaches to the problem,” says Rood.

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