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State weighs options to improve dam safety following spring failures

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

The Michigan Dam Safety Task Force held a meeting on Monday to discuss recommendations for how the state should oversee dam safety, particularly at privately-owned dams.

In the spring, the failure of the privately-owned Edenville and Sanford dams led to millions of dollars in damages and the evacuation of thousands from the region.

Now, the task force is reviewing how to better protect residents from similar disasters.

“There are many examples in this country where we wait until the disaster to take action," said task force member John Broschak. "We’ve had a disaster and we’re being asked to help avoid the next one.”

The task force floated several mechanisms for holding dam owners accountable for covering the costs of dam collapses and for funding a process of dam removal.

“We want to make certain that the dam owner understands that he or she is responsible for the maintenance of that dam. And then we know there are going to be orphaned dams out there that are going to require some funding so we want to create a dam safety emergency fund," said task force member Bill Rustem. "We don’t have an idea other than the general fund for how we get that.”

Task force members noted the state should prioritize its five high hazard, poor condition dams.

The recommendations will eventually be part of a report presented by the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy.

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