Midland awarded $5.5M in federal funding for flooding disaster relief

Dam failures in May 2020 caused significant flooding, damage in mid-Michigan

Nick Fox wades through floodwater to reach his home on Nurmi Drive, Wednesday, May 20, 2020, in Midland, Mich. (Katy Kildee/Midland Daily News via AP) (Katy Kildee)

LANSING, Mich. – The federal government has approved millions of dollars in disaster relief for part of central Michigan impacted by flooding last year caused by severe weather and dam failures.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday announced that the federal government has awarded the city of Midland nearly $5.5 million to assist with recovery and relief efforts following catastrophic flooding in May of 2020. The city can reportedly use the $5,476,035 to strengthen infrastructure in an effort to “reduce future flooding,” and to help fortify structures ahead of any potential disasters.

On May 19, 2020, mid-Michigan experienced severe weather that contributed to the failures of two dams, causing devastating flooding across a large stretch of Midland County. Both the Edenville Dam, located on Wixom Lake, and the Sanford Dam, located on the Tittabawassee River, were breached that day and flooded nearby areas, destroying homes, businesses, roads and infrastructure.

See: Aerial video shows complete devastation caused by dam failures in mid-Michigan

About 11,000 residents were asked to evacuate the area amid the flooding.

Gov. Whitmer declared a state of emergency in Midland County on May 19, 2020, and then extended that declaration to include Arenac, Gladwin, Saginaw and Iosco counties. Then-President Donald Trump approved Whitmer’s request for a federal emergency declaration for Midland County on May 21, 2020, opening up funding for relief and recovery efforts.

In a press release, Whitmer says the additional funds announced Tuesday will “assist Midland in addressing emergency community development needs resulting from this disaster.”

“We will work tirelessly to get communities hit hard by natural disasters the help they need to recover and rebuild,” Whitmer said. “I am grateful that our federal partners at the Department of Housing and Urban Development are sending $5.5 million to help Michiganders in Midland rebuild from May 2020′s severe storms and floods. We have a lot of work to do to make lasting investments in our infrastructure to make it more resilient. I know that we can come together to put Michiganders first and get it done.”

Related: Then and now: Community tries to rebuild 1 year after flooding in mid-Michigan

Earlier this year, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a $15 million fine against hydroelectric dam owner Boyce Hydro Power, LLC for failing to address the safety of the dams that failed and caused the devastating flooding in mid-Michigan.

Ahead of the disaster, Boyce Hydro Power is accused of repeating violations throughout the 14 years that it has been authorized to operate the Edenville Dam. FERC previously said that it had repeatedly raised concerns over the dam’s ability to prevent flooding during extreme conditions because of its inadequate spillway capacity.

Read more: Feds fine dam owners $15M for safety violations after 2020 mid-Michigan flooding

Dozens of central Michigan residents have filed a lawsuit against Boyce Hydro Power in connection with the 2020 disaster.

Related: Michigan flood victims may have to wait for accountability

About the Author:

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.