Local News Report Faults State of Michigan for Poor Oversight of Failed Dam

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer delivers her State of the State address to a joint session of the House and Senate, Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019, at the state Capitol in Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)
AP Photo/Al Goldis

An investigation by a local news station in Detroit, Michigan, found Wednesday that the state government bears some of the responsibility for the poor oversight that contributed to the failure of the Edenville and Sanford Dams.

The Edenville Dam failed on Tuesday night, following heavy rains and a “500-year” flood. Another dam downstream along the Tittabawassee River, the Sanford Dam, also failed as a result, flooding the nearby city of Midland, Michigan.

As Breitbart News reported, federal authorities revoked the license of the private company that owns the Edenville Dam in 2018 due to fears the dam could not withstand heavy floods, and the company’s failure to expand the spillway.

But as Karen Drew and Derick Hutchinson of WDIV channel 4 reported Wednesday evening, the State of Michigan failed to take corrective action once it assumed greater responsibility for oversight of the dam in October 2018:

In 2018, federal officials revoked the hydro power generating license for the dam and gave the regulatory authority to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy [EGLE].

[Gov. Gretchen] Whitmer might need to look at her own state agency, the Defenders found.

Local 4 Defender Karen Drew obtained a 2018 inspection document from EGLE, which states the dam’s two concrete spillway showed signs of moderate deterioration but appeared to be stable and functioning normally.

The problems and citations went on and on, but no major action was taken.

The report quoted EGLE spokesman Hugh McDiarmid Jr. defending the agency’s management, saying that it had “acted pretty aggressively” on the dam.

However, WDIV noted that the company that owns the dam, Boyce Hydro Power LLC, failed to submit a report to the state in March about what it planned to do to improve the dam.

The Tittabawassee River crested Wednesday at 35.05 feet, more than a foot above the previous record in 1986.

The river waters had risen roughly 20 feet in merely three days.

There are environmental concerns due to the effect of flooding on the facilities and operations of the Dow Chemical Company, located in Midland.

The company’s contamination pond was mingling with flood waters — though the company said that was not as dangerous a problem as it seemed, since the pond was being used for storm water drainage.

The greater danger is that toxic sediments from past contamination decades before, which had settled at the bottom and banks of the river, have been stirred up by the flooding, and may be deposited throughout the floodplain.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). His new book, RED NOVEMBER, is available for pre-order. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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