Thanks to Detroit News for this:
Trenton — The need for upgrades of the Wayne County Sheriff Office’s Marine Unit is as urgent as an SOS.
The path from the unit’s office, a double-wide trailer, to the dock is made up of wooden pallets and plasterboard, several of which have big holes. Parts of the seawall of the small dock at the Marine Unit’s headquarters in Elizabeth Park has rotted away, creating a hazard for deputies when trying to access boats in response to an incident.
Tall yellow cattails beside the dock are beautiful but they are a nuisance.
“They are so tall, we can’t see the boats from our office,” said Lt. Matt Gloster, who oversees the Sheriff’s Office Marine Unit. It doesn’t have permission to remove the wildflowers, Gloster said.
Last week, the path for an estimated $1.4 million in improvements for the facility began, at least ceremoniously. Wayne County Executive Warren C. Evans and other county officials broke ground on the project on Wednesday. The county has sought the improvements for a decade. County officials say the project is now possible because of a collaboration between Evans’ office, the county Board of Commissioners and the county Department of Public Services.
By the end of the year, the Marine Unit is slated to have a new bigger modular office, which replaces the double-wide trailer, that will lead to a new cement path and floating finger docks that can adjust to fluctuating water levels. The dock will have power pedestals, which will allow the charging of the unit’s fleet of nine boats. The county is reviewing bids for the purchase and delivery of the new modular office, officials said.
The upgrades come at time when the unit’s services are seeing increased demand, Gloster and other officials said. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, more people are enjoying the region’s vast waterways even as there are more fluctuations in water levels that make it riskier to enjoy.
The unpredictable water levels are part of the reason the Marine Unit’s dock and path are in a bad state. Several years ago, the path and dock flooded, which caused sheriff officials to create a path from pallets. “We’ve seen water levels drop two and half feet compared to 2020,” Gloster said.
The Marine Unit patrols 140 square miles of water, including Lake St. Clair, the Detroit River, Lake Erie and Belleville Lake. It also includes 38 miles of international waters between the U.S. and Canada.
The unit comprises deputies who are trained in marine law enforcement, search and rescue, underwater search and recovery operations. During rescue and recovery operations, divers may perform in limited or no visibility, cold water operations, ice and boat diving, river diving and other areas of specialized police diving.
The unit also works with other law enforcement agencies at the local, state and federal levels.
“This is a very busy area. This is the gateway to Lake Erie,” Gloster said.
More use of the water also means increased need for safety programs. The unit also conducts boating safety programs for county residents. Instruction is provided at various public schools throughout the county as well as evening classes open to the general public.
During boating season, the unit has about two dozen deputies and the dive team.
The changing water levels means more search and rescue missions. “It can mean someone getting a boat stuck,” in low water levels, Gloster said. The Marine Unit also responds to emergencies; a recent mission involved a man attempting suicide after jumping off the Ambassador Bridge.
“Safety is our main concern,” said Sgt. Michael Roehrig. “The river can be unforgiving.”
Wayne County Sheriff’s Marine Unit
4 Grosse Ile Parkway
Trenton, MI 48183