More mid-Michigan residents sue Edenville, Sanford dam owners after flooding devastation

Two federal class-action lawsuits filed against dam owners, state on behalf of mid-Michigan residents affected by flooding emergency

Remains of a home damaged during the mid-Michigan flooding emergency in May.
Remains of a home damaged during the mid-Michigan flooding emergency in May. (Buckfire Law Firm)

DETROIT – Buckfire Law Firm announced Tuesday two class-action lawsuits filed against Edenville and Sanford dam owners and the state of Michigan following the devastating flood emergency in central Michigan last month.

Nearly 11,000 mid-Michigan residents evacuated their homes on May 20 after multiple dams were breached, causing a massive flooding emergency in the region. Photos captured by Local 4 shows devastation to homes, roads, vehicles and more in Midland County.

Tuesday’s lawsuits are part of a series of filings against the dam owners and state for allegedly neglecting to ensure the dams operated in accordance with federal guidelines. The dam owners have previously received multiple citations from federal regulators for failure to meet safety guidelines over the last decade.

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

Buckfire Law is representing 19 mid-Michigan residents in the federal class-action lawsuit against dam owners Boyce Hydro and its manager Lee Mueller. Those represented are seeking compensation for the loss of property, business losses, relocation expenses and other losses, lawyers said.

Buckfire Law filed a second class-action lawsuit Tuesday against the state of Michigan for its alleged role in the Midland County floods. The lawsuit claims that the actions of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) “contributed to the flooding disaster."

Local 4 Defenders found that federal officials revoked the hydro power generating license for the dam and gave the regulatory authority to EGLE in 2018. An inspection document from EGLE in 2018 states the dam’s two concrete spillway showed signs of moderate deterioration but appeared to be stable and functioning normally. Investigators noted a series of problems and citations, but no major action was taken afterward.

Boyce Hydro was supposed to provide a detailed plan to EGLE in March about how to fix the issues, but officials say that report was never given to the state.

“In the 18-month window we had this, we acted pretty aggressively on it,” said EGLE spokesperson Hugh McDiarmid Jr. “This was a longstanding, decades old problem with a 96-year-old structure that we inherited a long time ago.”

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has since instructed EGLE to investigate the cause of the dam breach and provide recommendations for reforming dam policy to prevent another incident from occurring in the state.

“This flooding forced thousands to evacuate their homes, destroyed public infrastructure, ruined homes and businesses, and caused major natural resource damage,” said Governor Whitmer. “We must ensure accountability and prevent a disaster like this from happening again. I want to thank the first responders and volunteers who have stepped up to help in this time of unprecedented need.”

Though EGLE is directly involved in the situation Whitmer said it is important that the experts investigate the incident, as they understand the complexities and conditions of the dams better than anyone else could.


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