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Congress demands answers into Michigan dam failures

DETROIT – A U.S. House of Representatives Committee is now investigating the State and Federal Government’s oversight of the dam failure in Midland County.

Michigan Reps. Debbie Dingell and Fred Upton, along with the House Energy and Commerce Committee is demanding answers within two weeks to specific questions about how the Edenville Dam was inspected and allowed to operate.

The dam had received violations for noncompliance for nearly three decades. How could that happen, where are the gaps in the system and what needs to be done to make sure it never happens again?

John Douglas lost nearly everything last month due to the flood. He had lived on Wixom Lake for 12 years. Property values in the area dropped when Wixom Lake broke through the dam.

“This dam needed to be fixed. They refused to give it a license,” Dingell said. “We need to understand where there were gaps. We knew that it was a game. We knew it was a high hazard dam. What was not there to require the work to make this dam not be a hazard.”

That’s why the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee sent letter to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission demanding answers about oversight of the Edenville Dam.

Why was Boyce Hydro, the dam’s owner, allowed to continue operating out of compliance for over 10 years before the commission revoked its license? How did EGLE label the dam in “fair structural condition” when it took authority back in October 2018? And what did the state do legally and regulatory to prevent this from happening?

“No other community should experience what Midland and other surrounding areas did,” Dingell said.

While lawmakers try to uncover all the gaps and mistakes, flood victims continue to clean up.

“It’s bad,” Douglas said. “It’s a bad situation.”

Dingell said they hope to introduce legislation quickly to address the problem and there’s a sense of urgency that this could pass Congress this year.

A copy of Dingell and Upton’s letter to FERC is available here. A copy of Dingell and Upton’s letter to EGLE is available here.

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