Michigan department publishes dam failure report

Piles of household debris line Valley Drive in Midland, Michigan, on Wednesday, May 27, 2020. The Central Michigan city, known for its midcentury modern architecture, was submerged after torrential rains overwhelmed two dams. Architecture enthusiasts worry how extensively the structures were damaged. (AP Photo/Tammy Webber) (Associated Press)

LANSING – What caused the dam failures in Midland that destroyed 150 homes and altered the natural landscape will likely not become completely clear for more than a year, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) said in a report released on Tuesday.

The report provides an update on the ongoing investigation into the Edenville Dam, plans to restore the Tobacco River's flow and the lack of coordination with the dams' owner Boyce Hydro.

There is an independent investigation underway to determine what caused the Edenville and Sanford Dams to fail in May. But while awaiting the conclusion of the investigation, EGLE provided the first of a series of reports requested by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer that will provide information about how the dam failures came to be and reviewing dam safety policies in Michigan.

The report doesn’t address any parties at fault for the dam failures, but addresses what EGLE will do next to address the safety concerns left by the Edenville dam.

After struggling to coordinate with Boyce, EGLE plans to issue an emergency order to restore partial flow to the Tobacco River side of the Edenville dam. EGLE is partnering with AECOM, an engineering firm, to determine what water flow can safely re-enter the Tobacco River and alleviate strain on the M-30 bridges that collapsed with the flooding.

EGLE took over the role of assessing the remaining portion of the Edenville dam after the state said Boyce failed to comply with a federal court order to perform an engineering inspection. An attorney representing Boyce said the state is creating a false narrative and the reports Boyce submitted fulfilled the court-ordered requirements.

Read more: Frustrated Michigan officials issue emergency order to Edenville Dam owners ignoring deadlines