Michigan regulators moved fast on dangerous dam. To protect mussels.

snuffbox mussel

Three weeks before the dam failed this week, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel sued its owner, alleging it illegally lowered Wixom Lake, killing “thousands if not millions, of freshwater mussels.” (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

For decades, federal regulators demanded changes to the design of the Edenville Dam to make it more likely to withstand heavy rains and avoid flooding.

So when Michigan regulators assumed oversight of the dam in late 2018 after its owners lost their federal license to generate energy, they took action.

To protect mussels.

Three weeks before the 96-year-old dam failed this week amid heavy rains and caused the worst flood in Midland history, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel sued its owner, alleging it illegally lowered Wixom Lake in 2018 and 2019, killing “thousands if not millions, of freshwater mussels.”

“Defendants wrongfully exerted dominion over the freshwater mussels and caused their death which denies and is inconsistent with the state’s right to them,” state lawyers wrote in an April lawsuit.

Residents impacted by the massive flood say they are dumbfounded by the state’s priorities, especially since federal regulators had warned since at least 1993 the dam failed to meet safety requirements.

"How we got to the point where environmental issues trumped public safety, I don't know," said David Kepler, a resident who lives off nearby Sanford Lake and is president of the Four Lakes Task Force, an association largely consisting of waterfront property owners that was in the process of buying the Edenville Dam and three others before this week’s flood.

Now that waters have receded from the flood that evacuated some 10,000 residents, the blame has begun.  

The dam’s owner, Boyce Hydro Power LLC, claims Michigan pressured it to raise lake levels before the flood and the company took steps to lower them because “mis-operation could pose a significant risk to the Village of Sanford, Northwood University, the City of Midland, and other downstream areas,” according to a lawsuit last month.

Ryan Jarvi, spokesperson for the attorney general, called the claim “categorically false” and an attempt to “shift blame” for Boyce’s failure to adequately maintain its dams.

Michigan assumed oversight in September 2018 after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission revoked the dam’s license to generate and sell power. 

But Michigan’s flood control standards are half as strict as those of the federal government, and the state has one of the least stringent design standards for dams in the country, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Michigan has three staffers who are charged with overseeing more than 1,000 dams, records show.

Now that waters have receded from the flood that evacuated some 10,000 residents on Tuesday night, the blame has begun. (Bridge photo by Dale G. Young) 

Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy spokesperson Nick Assendelft this week said the state “had strong concerns the dam did not have enough spillway capacity” and was waiting for information from a Boyce consultant about whether the dam met the state’s design standards when the flood struck. The state had expected that report in March.

Spillways create pathways for high water to safely flow downstream, ensuring the safety of the dam and an orderly flow of water. Without adequate spillway capacity to release water during a major flood, water builds up behind a dam, threatening to overtop it and exerting extreme water pressure that heightens the risk of failures.

A three-paragraph Michigan inspection report of the dam in 2018 found “moderate deterioration” in the dam’s spillways but noted they “appeared to be stable and functioning normally.” It demanded no repairs.

On Monday, high waters caused by 8 inches of rain punched a hole through the earthen dike at the Edenville Dam, triggering its failure and the flooding. 

Lawrence Kogan, an attorney for Boyce, told Bridge Thursday that Michigan “never expressed any concern about the dam design.” Instead, Kogan said state inspectors had “exclusively focused on environmental” issues.

The state’s lawsuit claimed that Boyce lowered the lake by 8 feet for two straight years in 2018 and 2019, endangering the 15 species of freshwater mussels that live in Wixom Lake, including one  — the snuffbox — that is endangered and protected under Michigan law. 

Anne Woiwode, president of the Sierra Club’s Michigan chapter, said mussels are an often-overlooked, but critical part of the state’s waterways, filtering and cleaning water, among other things.

“I’ve heard stories of scientists gathering them and keeping them in their bathtubs when there are projects going on so they don’t get killed off,” she said.

President Donald Trump, who was in Michigan on Thursday, approved a disaster declaration in mid-Michigan and ordered federal assistance to supplement state and local response efforts. 

‘They were trying to avoid expense’

Kepler, lawsuits and state permit requests indicate that Boyce Hydro wanted to lower water levels in November 2019 so it could complete repairs on the gates of the dam to minimize ice damage during the winter.

Michigan denied the request, ruling Boyce could de-ice the gates using “heated pressure washers” and hiring outside contractors. That would be far too dangerous, said Kogan, the dam’s attorney.

The Nov. 25, 2019, permit denial from the state noted the “proposed drawdown is well outside the recommended season for mussel relocation.” 

“There also exists a significant risk of not recovering all stranded mussels in the event of snowfall,” the report reads.

Last month, though, the state granted Boyce permission to refill Wixom Lake to summertime water levels.

State environment spokesperson Hugh McDiarmid Jr. told Bridge via email that Boyce was not “as they seem to suggest, trying to permanently draw down the lake out of fear of flooding.”

“They were trying to avoid the expense — incurred by the other hydroelectric dams in Michigan — of developing the means to safely fight ice in ways other than simply draining the impoundment,” McDiarmid wrote.

He said Boyce’s “narrative” that “somehow when the state was handed regulatory authority we pivoted from concerns about the infrastructure to concerns about clams may serve [the company’s] purposes, but it’s neither accurate nor fair.”

The state, however, could produce no records to Bridge showing it sought changes to infrastructure, even though Boyce’s own lawsuit against the state last month acknowledged that “the Edenville Dam had long been considered potentially unsafe to downstream communities because of its inadequate spillway capacity.”

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Wednesday said the state is “reviewing every possible legal recourse that we have, because this incredible damage [from the flood] requires that we hold people responsible.”

Speaking to reporters Thursday, she didn’t directly address a question  about why the state didn’t try to force the dam’s owners to make repairs.

“We've got a process for this investigation and we've got to let that play out,” she said. “What I know is that where there is culpability, we will pursue holding people accountable.”

Whitmer linked the dam’s failure to a broader issue of under-investment in critical infrastructure, which she said she doesn’t believe private companies should own.

“When you have 500-year events, hundred-year events happening with more frequency, we know that this under-investment is going to come with very big costs if we don't take this seriously,” she said.

Waters from the flooding covered the stairs at the Midland County courthouse on Wednesday. (Bridge photo by Dale G. Young)

‘We had no authority’

Records show Boyce repeatedly failed to invest in the spillway upgrades and other work that federal regulators said were needed so the dam could withstand a major flood, arguing it did not have enough money.

Instead, the company’s owner, Lee Mueller of Las Vegas, insisted that nearby property owners should help foot the bill for repairs at Edenville as well as at the downstream Sanford Dam

Unless property owners helped pay to fix the dam’s issues, Mueller said in 2013, drawdowns were necessary to ensure flood safety.

Larry Woodard, president of the Wixom Lake Association, which represents lakeside homeowners, said the association’s members have long been frustrated with Boyce Hydro’s deep drawdowns. 

In recent years, Woodard had fielded “complaints and complaints” from homeowners about low winter lake levels. He too was annoyed, because the drawdowns made it impossible to ice fish on Wixom Lake.

Lakeside homeowners tried to negotiate with Mueller “to get the levels where they’re supposed to be,” Woodard said, but “we had no authority to tell him what level he could be at.”

Anne Jefferson, a hydrologist and professor at Kent State University, said Boyce’s inability to comply with federal demands is extremely unusual. 

Dam operators make money by selling power and “normally the threat of removing licensure would be enough to get a dam operator to comply,” she said.

“To some extent, Boyce Hydro is saying ‘we’re going to [lower water levels] to keep our dam safe, but we’re not going to do some of the other things we’re being asked to do to keep our dams safe,’” Jefferson said. 

Boyce sold power to Consumers Energy, and the dam’s attorney, Kogan, said it didn’t make enough money to fund repairs sought by federal regulators, which wanted the dam to double its spillway capacity to meet the “probable maximum flood,” which is the worst an area could experience and which varies from place to place. (Michigan’s standard is one-half of probable maximum flood.)

Pleading poverty

The Four Lakes Task Force had plans to upgrade Edenville dam, meeting federal standards, Kepler said, because it wanted to restore the dam’s ability to generate electricity. That would create another revenue stream to help pay for the estimated $35 million in repairs on the four dams.

Property owners on the lakes, who wanted stable lake levels, worked with county officials in Gladwin and Midland counties, and some supporters downstream, including Dow Chemical Co., which contributed $250,000 to the effort to buy and fix the dams, Kepler said.

Kepler, who has water on the first floor of his home from the flood, is upset with the state, because it could have allowed Boyce to do work in 2019 that could have helped. 

But he’s also upset with Boyce, a company with a long record of claiming poverty when ordered to upgrade the dams. He said the task force still intends to buy the properties and repair them.

“Their whole argument is they didn’t have the money to fix it,” Kepler said. “Then why in the hell did they buy it?”

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Comments

Anonymous
Fri, 05/22/2020 - 8:57am

Sounds just like the Flint water crisis, the state had the ability to correct the situation and did nothing.

Larry
Fri, 05/22/2020 - 9:37am

So, does everyone see the big picture irony here. Big Brother says save the mussels by forcing normally high wet-weather water levels at the risk of a dam failure that would empty the lake and kill ALL of the mussels, as well as completely disrupt and/or kill all of the other aquatic species as well. Does this not CRY OUT for some honest to goodness big-picture, think-tank discussion and debate every time one of these types of "between a rock and a hard place" decisions are made??? All too often these types of decisions do not have a clear right or wrong answer. There is plenty of blame to go around here.

Mike
Fri, 05/22/2020 - 10:01am

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Wednesday said the state is “reviewing every possible legal recourse that we have, because this incredible damage [from the flood] requires that we hold people responsible.” Well, she need look any further than Michigan's Attorney General Dana Nessel who looks like is certainly to blame for the dam failure. She should be fired, arrested and thrown in jail for her actions.

Mark Freeland
Fri, 05/22/2020 - 1:12pm

He said Boyce’s “narrative” that “somehow when the state was handed regulatory authority we pivoted from concerns about the infrastructure to concerns about clams may serve [the company’s] purposes, but it’s neither accurate nor fair.” This statement also encompasses all you Geek Squad members trying to shift responsibility from your Governor Geek to the current Governor. Mike your assessment of what steps to take at this point is extremely sad and political in nature. NOTE to self: Don't ask Republican's for concise fact based advice on anything.

Anonymous
Fri, 05/22/2020 - 3:05pm

It's not a narrative- there are multiple court documents that are pretty damning to the AG.

Buck Wheat
Sat, 05/23/2020 - 2:14pm

Spoken like a true liberal Democrat with no brain!

Flagged
Sat, 05/23/2020 - 3:52pm

Save the Clams!!

Kenneth Tokarz
Fri, 05/22/2020 - 10:09am

The governor want to hold people responsible, let’s start with the pension deficit first.

Donnie Pratt
Sat, 05/23/2020 - 1:10pm

The guvnur does NOT want to hold ALL people responsible, only those not associated with her, where almost all of the responsoibilty lies.

David Swan
Fri, 05/22/2020 - 10:12am

Once again, the Michigan Legislature has put into place laws that are the weakest protections in the country. The laws put in place by the Legislature were HALF federal guidelines. This is similar to how the Michigan Legislature approaches septic, wetlands, and toxins. Sub-standard regulations that puts Michigan's citizens, businesses, and resources at risk. It is shameful, short-shorted, ill-informed, and as we see in Sanford & Midland catastrophic.

George Hagenauer
Fri, 05/22/2020 - 10:23am

I live in a city that now own a dam. They didn't originally own a dam it like the ones in the article were privately owned but the company went bottom up over time and the small city which has really limited resources now owns the dam. And it is in an isolated section of the city-surrounded by other governments - the landowners with river property don't pay for the dam's upkeep or in this case removal - though they really don't want the dam removed. Flooding is not a major issue - the city that owns the dam is up quite a bit from the river and use s the riverside area as public parks which is where t he flood water goes when there is too much rain - providing free fish if you dare to eat them when things recede. So there will be minimal impact from the dam removal (except for the several million dollar cost) to city residents - folks in other government entities who have river property will find where the river is changing- but then they don't want to pay for dam repair or removal. What this mess and the bigger mess around Midland argues against is private ownership of dams . It also argues for some form of local agency often with multiple local governments involved overseeing the waterways- both involve taxes and are unlikely to be implemented. Which means the logical way this and climate change flooding will be dealt with is through the insurance rates or denial of insurance completely.

Peter
Sat, 05/23/2020 - 8:42am

Regional water management organizations already exist in Michigan; look to the County Drain Commissions. They have the right to perform maintenance, as required, and to levy taxes on property owners within the affected district, sufficient to pay for the costs. Why create something new, when we already have the governmental structure that is required?

zooman
Fri, 05/22/2020 - 10:30am

There is indeed plenty of blame to go around here. The entire notion of privately owned dams for an electrical generation seems really antiquated. I don't think that Consumers or DTE would even notice the loss of power generation if all of these dams were removed; the energy they provide is probably just a drop in the bucket of overall user demand.
It does seem odd that dams on rivers that are entirely in one state should be under federal oversight. Whether the dams in Michigan should be managed by the state or by a local authority accountable to affected county and city authorities is something that should be considered, regardless of whether the is used for electrical generation, flood control, or for reasons that can no longer be identified. The present system isn't working.

William C. Plumpe
Fri, 05/22/2020 - 11:51am

As a typical huckster type business person the private owner ignored repeated warnings to fix the dam to make more money.
The private owner turned the dam into a cash cow and drained every dollar they could squeeze out of the dam until there was no cash left to be squeezed. To get more cash the owner pled hardship when pressed and failed to spend anything to maintain the dam. The owner should have been sued in Federal Court for noncompliance and compelled to make repairs. Hopefully that will happen. The mussels are really a non issue and a distraction. If Republicans are so into personal responsibilty the owner should be sued and forced into bankruptcy. Don't blame the State for ongoing individual bad behavior. The owner generated a lot of cash by owning the dam and paying little if nothing for upkeep and maintenance. The owner should be sued for damages and if possible criminal negligence.

10x25mm
Fri, 05/22/2020 - 1:54pm

You need to explain why the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a preliminary permit to Four Lakes Task Force on 03 December to boost the Edenville Dam Hydroelectric Project to 6 MW, a 25% generating capacity increase. FERC were just trying to run Boyce Hydro Power out of business. FERC were no more serious about safety than EGLE.

Your biggest problem is that we still don't know exactly how these dams failed. Once we know the failure mechanisms, we can then determine who exactly is responsible for the failures.

Bruce
Sat, 05/23/2020 - 8:40am

Its funny how people can say We need to blame the owner of the Dam. Yet Regulations are regulations. The Government will Ticket you if you go to a Beach. The Government Will Close your Restaurant, ticket and Arrest you. They will pull your license to Sell. They can force you to wear a mask. But for some Reason, when a Dam has been slated Unreliable for years, knowing the damage it will cause when it fails. The Government will tell you it did everything in it's power to prevent it from happening. Yet again, Some Michiganders continue to Drink the Kool Aid.

EB
Fri, 05/22/2020 - 12:23pm

There only two types of dams: those that have failed and those that haven't failed yet.

They're always an aggravation: owners go bankrupt; owners lack funds to maintain the dam; original purpose no longer exists; water too high to suit some lake shore owners; water too low to suit some lake shore owners; down river shore owners getting too much water; down river shore owners getting too little water; no money to maintain the dam; environmental squabbles; no agreement on how to maintain the dam; incredible finger pointing when the dam finally breaches; etc.

Lesson to be learned from all this: never buy property on a lake where the lake level is maintained by a dam.

Mike
Mon, 05/25/2020 - 10:04am

Finally someone with some sense, well said.

Tam
Fri, 05/22/2020 - 12:52pm

If MDEQ hired registered Water Resource Engineers instead of Environmentalists, they would know about things like dams and hydraulics and structural stabilitiy of bridges, just name a few. But then they would have to hire engineers from engineering schools -

Arjay
Fri, 05/22/2020 - 1:04pm

From putting mussels over people, to putting elderly with COVID19 back into nursing homes and not locking down these nursing homes, these two dimwit dems, Nessel and Whitmer, are really making a name for themselves in the number of people they have killed and the damage they have caused.

Hugh McDiarmid
Fri, 05/22/2020 - 2:00pm

The insinuation that saving mussels was prioritized over protecting the public is an attention grabbing lede. And notwithstanding the fact that the two aren’t mutually exclusive, here’s some additional context that, IMO would have been pretty important.
After decades of failing to get Boyce Hydro Power into compliance with federal regulations, the feds revoked their license to generate hydroelectric power, dropping authority into EGLE’s lap. Because its records had been protected under federal critical infrastructure laws, the first any state regulator saw of the dam’s vital information, including inspection reports, was in October of 2018. During the subsequent 18 months, the three EGLE regulators (while also tending to the other 1,152 dams they oversee): completed an initial inspection of the structure that assessed its current condition (it did not assess its capacity to meet state safety standards); reviewed decades of federal files, reports, recommendations, correspondence, inspection records, data, etc.; maintained a constant dialogue with the owner and consultants to obtain information and analysis critical to determining the dam’s ability to meet regulations; and commissioned a comprehensive analysis of the dam that was to be completed in March of this year. That report was the critical step in determining whether the structure was capable of meeting the state standard for spillway flow….the method of relieving pressure on the dam. But EGLE has not yet received it the report.
Had the agency determined that the spillway was not capable of handling state-required volumes of water, action would surely have been taken. A consistent dialogue about the capacity of that spillway took place between state regulators and the dam owners and consultants from 2018 to present. It is true that the state standard is half the federal standard – a statutory requirement set by the state legislature that EGLE is obligated to adhere to in enforcement decisions.
The agency that got handed the hot potato, and was juggling it pretty admirably from my perspective, deserves better than this.
I apologize for the thread hijack, appreciate your reading to the end, still love all the miscreants at Bridge and hope I’ve provided some helpful context that I thought was lacking.

Alex Chance
Fri, 05/22/2020 - 10:57pm

Who called it? Surely someone on here predicted that the Democrats would pull the victim card, right? Nessel and Whitmer are the aggrieved parties and have done an amazing job, they claim after they blow a dam to save clams. The dam probably burst because it’s sexist, they argue. It’s sad to watch these people come up with excuses for failure. There were real consequences for these bad policies and actions.

Alex Sagady
Sun, 05/24/2020 - 12:36pm

>>>>>>"Had the agency determined that the spillway was not capable of handling
state-required volumes of water, action would surely have been taken."

This does not answer the question of whether the state's rules on spillways and required
allowable spillway discharge volume are sufficient to address safety under all circumstances,
including any degraded dam engineering features.

The Edenville Dam's spillway was not the cause of the dam failure, although
it was reportedly undersized to handle severe precipitation events.....at best
its capacity is a distant conributing factor.

The video showing the breach occurred on an earthen portion of the
dam with seeps and jets through the earthen dam structure occurring away from
the spillway site.....which means engineering failure of the earth dam and that
the high water level in the lake may have been a significant or even controlling
factor leading to the dam failure.

Bill comes due II
Fri, 05/22/2020 - 3:17pm

Reading articles about this, I am underwhelmed by the title of this article. The thing that nobody reported on is HOW AG Nessel had this lake put on her radar.

Everyone wants to resort to the zebra mussels. But how did she know the lake was being lowered and who brought it to her attention?

////"How we got to the point where environmental issues trumped public safety, I don't know," said David Kepler, a resident who lives off nearby Sanford Lake and is president of the Four Lakes Task Force, an association largely consisting of waterfront property owners that was in the process of buying the Edenville Dam and three others before this week’s flood.

Larry Woodard, president of the Wixom Lake Association, which represents lakeside homeowners, said the association’s members have long been frustrated with Boyce Hydro’s deep drawdowns.

In recent years, Woodard had fielded “complaints and complaints” from homeowners about low winter lake levels. He too was annoyed, because the drawdowns made it impossible to ice fish on Wixom Lake.

Lakeside homeowners tried to negotiate with Mueller “to get the levels where they’re supposed to be,” Woodard said, but “we had no authority to tell him what level he could be at.”////

I am betting that is how it got on her radar. I would also bet that the zebra mussels were the best legal strategy for the lakeside homeowners to get their levels where the homeowners wanted them.

https://www.ourmidland.com/news/article/Wixom-Lake-may-be-drained-due-to...

Township Supervisor William Clark said the suit seeks an injunction against Boyce lowering water levels until financing is in place. He is not in favor of the flood project. “Almost everybody believes it’s ridiculous, but we’re not fighting that. It’s too big. They’ve done years of engineering studies.”

Notice the date on that article? Thursday, May 23, 2013

EDENVILLE — If $170 a year would save your lakefront property, would you pay it?

Now we get to the blame game. https://www.michigan.gov/documents/egle/egle-EdenvilleDamInspection-1004...

This comment has more substance than that. This is what happens when conservatives are in control. The less rules you have to follow the easier it is to operate a business. And when they make it so that the State rules can't be more stringent than the watered down FED rules.......stuff like this happens. It has no other option but to happen this way.

The owner of the dam wanted property owners to fix his dam. The State regulators didn't see what the Feds saw and when a new administration came in they had to use the information that the previous administration gave them.

This is what happens when we let wages for people stagnate while pushing tons of cash to the already wealthy who don't think they are part of society and shouldn't have to pay any taxes.

We should get used to this.

Flagged
Sat, 05/23/2020 - 4:06pm

Afterall, it was the property owners doing the complaining. Maybe in the end of things they should've put their pecuniary wherewithal exactly where their maxillary orifices are located. They may not be suffering these problems right now, and incidentally having no clams now. Seems to me the levels were exactly where they should've been for safety purposes afterall, so who is it with the whites n yolks on their faces now? Let's see, complainers for someone to change into an unsafe predicament not attached with the dough for the job or a state attorney general seeing on behalf of capitalizing from, capitalizing from the very clams they just lost due to her unsafe desires. Looks to me like take your pick, libs or property owners greed pushed through dams not strong enough for their britches. Methinks it's maybe the self-reflection don been placed in the incorrect direction...

Mike
Mon, 05/25/2020 - 10:13am

Well said, I'll also ad.... I bet the levels were either up to the level or on their way up to the level that homeowners would want it to be on a typical Memorial Day weekend. (Access to more water, no props hitting sand or stumps, etc)

PLombard
Fri, 05/22/2020 - 3:38pm

I was surprised to read in a report from the Association of State Dam Safety Officials that of the 83,539 dams in a national survey, 69% of them were privately owned and mostly ineligible for state or federal funding. See https://www.damsafety.org

Joe Rathbun
Fri, 05/22/2020 - 8:16pm

This is a terribly deceptive article, combining actions by two different agencies in a single narrative. DNR is pursuing damages for the loss of aquatic resources that belong to every Michigander, partly but not entirely because a Federally endangered species is involved. Separate from that, EGLE is coping with dam safety regulations that are inadequate because of many years of the Republican party's antagonism towards environmental protection of any sort. The two actions; pursuing restitution for the loss of aquatic resources and coping with the failure of the dams; are not related. A more accurate headline would be "EGLE response to dam failures hamstrung by decades-long GOP obstruction, as DNR pursues restitution for natural resource losses." If you want stronger regulations on irresponsible dam owners, vote for Democrats - it's that simple.

Earl Hickey
Sat, 05/23/2020 - 1:22am

Gov. Whitmer owns this one

Mike
Mon, 05/25/2020 - 10:19am

I bet water levels where were the property owners wanted them or were still being raised in prep for the Memorial Day weekend. So no, the homeowners sadly own this one.

Matthew Wandel
Sat, 05/23/2020 - 10:02am

Whitmer, Nessel, Clark, & McDiarmid need to be investigated for how we came to sue Boyce & raise water levels on an unsafe dam. The mussels story doesn't make sense & doesn't jive at all with the situation. This is a man made lake, the mussels story has very sketchy credibility. Emails between Whitmer, Nessel, Clark, & McDiarmid on public servers need to be FOIA'd. This case needs thorough investigation into the highest levels of Michigan government. This is perhaps one of the top 10 worst environmental catastrophes in Michigan history and it was all avoidable & under the guise of doing what's right for the environment. Why would the state put pressure on a dam owner to raise water levels when the dam is unsafe? Even the Feds said the mussels story doesn't hold water. Dow Chemical which is downstream & known to be laden with contaminated sediment has now had dangerously polluted water wash all the way down the Tittabawasee all the way to Saginaw Bay. Recent actions taken by the attorney general could potentially prove to be high crimes & Whitmer, Nessel, Clark, & McDiarmid all need to be investigated for how we got to a point where an unsafe dam was being pressured to raise water levels when it's obvious by any common sense that it should be the opposite. I don't care about who is a democrat or a republican, I care about Michigan's freshwater. The very people who were entrusted to protect our freshwater have potentially failed us in a way that has done incalculable damage to our Great Lakes. Please continue to investigate Bridge & thank you for for your investigative journalism. Please make the FOIA's. We need to see emails from these government officials. We need to investigate this to the fullest. If there is any underlying motive to raise water levels because cabin owners demanded it & the mussels story is in anyway fabricated, there should be criminal negligence implications. Safety of Michigan's citizens & our protection of our freshwater should always be top priority.

John Medina
Sat, 05/23/2020 - 2:18pm

Whitmer did this. Whitmer and Nassler. These two have destroyed our state and its economy. They must go.

sam johnson
Sat, 05/23/2020 - 4:16pm

Another Democrat run state, what do you expect?

Timothy Sullivan
Sat, 05/23/2020 - 4:46pm

This whole thing is a bipartisan fuster cluck of the highest order. The Feds have been after Boyce Hydro since 1993. Boyce did little, if anything, to fix or maintain the dam. The Clinton, Bush the Younger, Obama & Trump administrations did what they did, and the Feds finally ran out of patience in 2018 yanking Boyce's license.

State oversight, such as it is, took over then. One of our inspectors said the dam was in "fair" condition (if the Freep, Detroit News and Bridge are right). Methinks he would like a mulligan on that one.

And when the State tried to regulate it, it was to keep the water levels up to protect mussels (and the lake front property of those living on the man-made lake).
The problems here are manifest.

The business, Boyce Hydro, like too many of our “jobs creators” did not maintain their property or re-invest profits in the business, as they were more concerned with short-term profit.

The Feds could not, or would not, force them to do so, so they did what they could and yanked his permit to generate electricity. Their patience of giving Boyce 25 years to fix the problems is more generous that I would have been with them.

The State then steps in and in the spirit of deregulation that has been a bipartisan disaster this century, gave the dam a passing grade. It is unclear if the Feds and the State exchanged information on the dam, but as a retired State employee, if I inherited such a case I would have at least asked for the prior file in writing so I would not have to re-invent the wheel, so to speak.

And the net result of all this? Midland and Dow Chemical are flooded (and Dow flooding may be the real fuster cluck of a disaster); the homeowners need not worry about their lake front property anymore; and the mussels are dead. But the lawsuits will live on. And on.

Now our politicians do what they do best, fix blame and not the problem.

In Deadline Detroit, Charlie LeDuff says we've become a banana republic. He may be right.

Ben W. Washburn
Sat, 05/23/2020 - 10:50pm

I'm impressed by each and all of the foregoing comments, because almost each and everyone strives to deal with an issue which has been on no-ones mind over the past ten years. I find it hard to "blame" anyone for this disaster. Who wanted to pay for the cost of dam upgrades. Certainly not the folks for whom's lakeside property values depended upon the maintenance of these dams. Everyone wants a fix, but no one wants to pay for it. Duh..... I would recommend to anyone who has come this far on these comments to go back and re-read all of them. The diversity of opinions found in them should suggest why no one in our government, Republican or Democrat, has pushed this kind of issue to the forefront.

J Hendricks
Sun, 05/24/2020 - 6:42am

Zealous environmentalists. Nothing else matters. But of course, like all liberals, they will try to deflect their incompetence and blame others. Life under Gretchen.