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After devastating flood, Sanford Lake homeowners face new threat

Edenville Dam aerial

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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