The Edenville and Sanford dams once blocked invasive lampreys from entering upstream rivers. But the 2020 dam failures provided an opening, and lamprey now threaten native fish. Regulators say they have a plan.
Mid-Michigan lawmakers urgently introduced a slate of bills to better fund and regulate Michigan’s aging dams. But more than two years after the Midland disaster, the reforms have yet to receive a hearing.
That’s what an independent panel found in its final report chronicling the physical and human causes of the May 2020 dam failures that flooded out mid-Michigan, forcing thousands to evacuate and leaving widespread damage.
An investigative report released Monday sheds light on the problems that left the dam vulnerable, from a failure to compact the soil during construction to missing drain tiles that the dam’s owner never addressed.
The fine may be purely symbolic, since Boyce Hydro has declared bankruptcy. But the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission chair called it “a clear message” to other dam owners that the agency is serious about dam safety.
Devastating Midland floods would have been worse were it not for the sponge-like properties of a newly-restored wetland along the Shiawassee River. As climate change brings more intense rainstorms to Michigan, the incident is an example of how wetlands could help mitigate flood threats.
In a report detailing 86 recommendations designed to improve dam safety in Michigan, members of a state task force focused on changes to state law and policy, along with funding fixes to prevent future dam failures like the Edenville break in May.
Facing a host of lawsuits, companies that operated the dams that failed during historic flooding seek Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, using the filing to list a litany of grievances against federal regulators and neighbors.