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State will order bankrupt Sanford dam owner to make fixes

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

The state will try to order the company that owns the Edenville and Sanford Dams to fix failures that caused extensive flooding along the Tittawabassee River in May.

That action was announced Tuesday by the state Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE).
The Edenville dam break flooded downtown Midland and forced 11,000 people to evacuate. 
Luke Trumble is an engineer with the department. He says the first step is temporary repairs to ensure there’s not a repeat of the May catastrophe

“So this would be to address the immediate concerns as we move into the spring where we could get a better chance of high flows again, that the dam is stable and secure, and that another failure event doesn’t happen in the meantime,” he said.

Officials say the state will come up with plans and then order the owner, Boyce Hydro Power, to get the work done.

An attorney for Boyce says the company has filed for bankruptcy protection and does not have the money to do that.  

Liesl Clark is the director of EGLE. She said the series of actions should also lead to a big-picture examination of dams, bridges, and roads.

“The historic rain event which led to the dam failure and the 500-year flooding in mid-Michigan illuminated in many ways the consequences of inadequately investing in our state’s infrastructure,” she said.

There are also other reviews underway regarding the Midland dam failures, as well as the condition of dams across the state. There are more than 2,500 dams in the state.

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Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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