EDENVILLE, Mich. – Michigan officials said it’s an unusual step, but it has to be done. They’re frustrated that the owners of the Edenville Dam are ignoring deadlines, so they issued them an emergency order.
The Edenville Dam failed May 19, leaving 11,000 people evacuated and 2,500 structures damaged by the 500-year flood.
With Tuesday’s emergency order, Boyce Hydro is forced to alter the Edenville Dam to ensure public safety and have that project done by the end of the year.
The sight of the empty Wixom Lake and lakefront property turned into rubble was jarring. Now, three and a half months later, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy has increased the urgency.
“It is unusual for us to step in and take over for a dam owner,” said Teresa Seidel, of the EGLE Water Resources Division.
EGLE issued Boyce Hydro the emergency order to alter the Tobacco River spillway near Midland. State officials believe that is the best option to address dam safety concerns right now.
“Lower the concrete in that spillway to allow some flow back into the Tobacco River and divert some of the flow away from the M-30 crossing so that bridge can be reconstructed,” said Lucas Trumble, of the Dam Safety Program.
The design would restore partial flow to the Tobacco River and the Tittabawasee River and divert water that has been draining to the area where the dam breach occurred.
Boyce Hydro will be ordered to complete construction.
“They have not hit one deadline or met one milestone we have asked,” EGLE Director Leisel Clark said. “In the meantime, state government has stepped up.”
State officials said they might have to pick up the tab because the dam owner has failed bankruptcy. EGLE officials believe the state could be eligible for funding to cover the majority of costs, but nothing is official on that.
If that funding doesn’t come in, taxpayers would foot the bill, as the state would try to get reimbursed by the bankrupt company.
Other reviews are also being done for later submission. They will take a look at Michigan’s Dam Safety Program and an independent investigation is looking at the factors that led to the dam failure.
Officials said homeowners on the drained lakes will have to wait at least a few years for the water to return.