After devastating flood, Sanford Lake homeowners face new threat

Edenville Dam aerial

After the Edenville dam (above) failed May 20, water swept into Sanford Lake, causing widespread damage. Now, homeowners must deal with erosion caused by a lake that has turned into a river.  (Credit: Maxar Technologies)

Two weeks after their shoreline was replaced with hundreds of feet of mud and a drop-off where the water’s edge had been, Sanford Lake residents face yet another threat: erosion.

On Thursday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ordered the owner of the dams to stabilize the shorelines to prevent erosion that could endanger homes.

FERC, which regulates hydroelectric dams and which has sparred with Boyce Hydro for years over failure to upgrade one of four dams, told Boyce on Thursday to hire engineers to study erosion along Sanford Lake that had created a “steep bank.”

Stacey Trapani, spokesperson for the Four Lakes Task Force, a group of property owners who banded together in 2006 to buy the four dams from Boyce, said erosion is a “big issue on the lakes” and the task force is working with state and federal agencies on a solution.

“We're helping property owners with things they can do themselves on a small scale but the issue is much bigger than that,” Trapani said. “This is the responsibility of Boyce Hydro as you see from the letter and we have not heard from them on this matter.”

An attorney for Boyce did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Multiple dam failures swept away four mid-Michigan lakes May 20 eventually flooding much of Midland and causing the evacuation of about 11,000 people.

After three days of rain, the Tittabawasee River watershed overflowed and the Edenville dam, the third of four dams in the chain of lakes, failed, sending torrents of water into more southerly Sanford Lake. The Sanford dam then failed as well and water flooded much of the Midland area. Hundreds of homes and businesses were damaged.

And the damage may not be over. FERC said an engineer must study the shoreline and Boyce must pay for stabilizing the shoreline near “any residences or structures that are in jeopardy of additional damage.”

FERC also said the loss of the lake, replaced with a far-faster moving river, could lead to even more erosion, especially if there is more rain.

FERC revoked Boyce’s license to generate electricity at the Edenville dam in 2018 after it failed to heed the agency’s requirement to build additional spillways that could have better protected the downstream region.

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Barry Visel
Thu, 06/04/2020 - 9:33pm

Wait...your earlier article implied FERC was no longer in the picture. They handed off to the State and sealed their files. Now they’re back? Does that relieve the State? So, does anybody know who’s in charge?

Alex M
Fri, 06/05/2020 - 2:14pm

FERC never goes away, they just refused to license them for power generation meaning that if they wanted to sell power the state (which typically has the ultimate control since power is mostly intrastate commerce) would have to do the licensing on their own. FERC is in conjunction with the states. Their engineers can still make recommendations and provide ammunition for lawsuits from homeowners but IDK how much power they would have to really compel them to do anything.

Scott Roelofs
Fri, 06/05/2020 - 10:56pm

FERC had revoked the electric generation license for the Edenville Dam. Therefore, regulation of that dam was by the State of Michigan. Sanford Dam is (was) still generating electricity and therefore is under FERC authority.

b Smitty
Fri, 06/05/2020 - 8:45am

Be responsible in your reporting people. 4 lakes did not get "swept away".

middle of the mit
Sat, 06/06/2020 - 12:18am

I called this the moment I saw the article. I am truly sorry. I really am.

But this is personal responsibility on the backs of those who tell the rest of society to be personally responsible.

They tell those who can't afford to be personally responsible to BE personally responsible, while telling those who can afford it that they pay too many taxes. And now they want the State and Feds to bail them out and not the ones that were hurt by their inaction because of the costs those people would incur.

I and a whole LOT of other people are tired of it! WE are tired of you making all the money, not wanting to pay for taxes for your own upkeep and then getting the blame for all of it including the State that you don't even think should have any regulation what so ever.

What is it that you want..other than EVERYTHING?

And others doing the work for you for little to nothing?

Give US an Answer!

Marlene Augst
Sat, 06/06/2020 - 6:00am

I read the company was denied the request to lower the water level to do repairs but was denied by WHITMER Admin because of a "muscle". Is this true?

Sat, 06/06/2020 - 10:16pm

Where are the jail times and massive fines ?
A few nights in jail and the repair money would "magically" appear