A stream gage will be put into the St. Joseph River in the city of St. Joseph this year to give officials more accurate data about the water level in the river and the volume of the flow. St. Joseph City Manager John Hodgson says the nearest one is in Niles, and it’s not effective for St. Joe or Benton Harbor due to the dam between Niles and the twin cities.
“We have an unusual situation in what we’re seeing with the current water levels in that in the city of St. Joseph, what we’re mostly affected by is the lake surge when we get westerly winds pushing the lake this way,” said Hodgson. “That’s what’s raising the river elevation, that’s what’s flooding Main Street (in Benton Harbor) by Whirlpool’s Riverview campus.”
The St. Joseph city commission approved spending as much as $19,800 to put in the gage and for the first year’s maintenance. Hodgson says annual maintenance will be around $6,100, and the Michigan Department of Transportation has agreed to pay nearly a third of that.
“That feels to me like cheap insurance if it gives us a heads up and we’re able to put sandbags in place, or cover something up or do something to protect a property from damage even once,” adds Hodgson.
He says putting in a gage had been discussed for a few years, and moving forward on it came about after a recent meeting with the US Geological Survey. The city and the USGS will now enter into a partnership with the new equipment on the river.