Residents want answers in Edenville Dam failure that led to devastating floods

Local 4 Defenders investigate dam failure

The Local 4 Defenders have uncovered new information about who is responsible for the failure of the Edenville Dam, which led to catastrophic floods in mid-Michigan.

EDENVILLE, Mich. – The Local 4 Defenders have uncovered new information about who is responsible for the failure of the Edenville Dam, which led to catastrophic floods in mid-Michigan.

READ: ‘Catastrophic’ flooding, evacuations in mid-Michigan as dams fail: What to know

The situation has turned into a bitterly contested finger pointing match on who is to blame for the Edenville Dam failure.

As residents figure out what’s next, investigators are trying to figure out how this catastrophic mess happened. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said the state will hold people accountable for what happened.

RELATED: Investigating who is responsible for Edenville Dam failure that led to devastating floods

Boyce Hydro recently issued a statement saying in part it was “under pressure” to "raise the level "of water at Wixom Lake a month before the dam failed but the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy denied ever pressuring the owner to raise water levels, but they did approve it.

In a document from February, the state agency did authorize the company to “raise the Wixom Lake level to normal summer pool elevation” during the “spring of 2020”

EGLE told Local 4 that approval came with conditions as the state agency was concerned about the company lowering water levels in the winter, damaging natural resources.

Dam failure isn’t unheard of in Michigan. According to a recent report card on Michigans infrastructure by the American Society of Civil Engineers, about 66% of the approximate 2,600 dams in Michigan are older than their 50-year design.

The report states Michigan has 140 “high hazard potential dams," which means it has the “potential for loss of life and property damage if the dam were to fail.”

A recent example is the 2003 Silver Lake Dam failure near Marquette which resulted in $100 million in damages and economic losses.

Flood victims want to know who’s responsible, but most importantly, what is left of their homes.

Here is a statement from Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Neil Chatterjee:

FERC continues to follow the reports on the situation at the Edenville and Sanford dams. Our primary concern is the safety of Michigan residents, and we urge them all to continue heeding evacuation guidance by local emergency management agencies. When it is appropriate and safe to do so, FERC will send a staff engineer to the site to assist with the investigation. The commission pledges to work closely with state officials and coordinate our investigatory efforts wherever possible.”

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (EGLE) released the following:

"EGLE assumed regulatory authority for the 96-year-old Edenville Dam in late 2018 after its license to generate hydropower was revoked by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. EGLE was in the process of reviewing federal records and conducted an initial inspection in October of 2018, finding that it was in fair structural condition. However, EGLE had strong concerns that the dam did not have enough spillway capacity – which allows water to flow out of the Wixom Lake impoundment –to meet state requirements. EGLE expressed those concerns to the owners’ consultants and was continuing conversations about that deficiency. EGLE had taken enforcement action against the dam’s owner for drawing down water levels without permission and for damage to natural resources as a result of those drawdowns. EGLE was pursuing additional enforcement action at the time of the breach.

Lack of investment in dam infrastructure is not uncommon in Michigan dams, which have suffered from deferred maintenance over the course of decades. That, combined with the historic rainfall and flooding, were factors in the Edenville Dam failure."

Click here for more from EGLE.

Here is a statement from Boyce Hydro:

About the Authors:

Karen Drew is the anchor of Local 4 News First at 4, weekdays at 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. She is also an award-winning investigative reporter.

Dane is a producer and media enthusiast. He previously worked freelance video production and writing jobs in Michigan, Georgia and Massachusetts. Dane graduated from the Specs Howard School of Media Arts.