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State sues owner of failed dams that caused historic flooding in May

Clinton Snider

Michigan’s Attorney General filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the owner of the two dams that failedlast month causing historic floods.

On May 19, the Edenville dam failed after days of heavy rain. Torrents of water rushed downstream, overwhelming the Sanford dam and forcing thousands to evacuate.

Local and state officials are still calculating the damage done to homes, businesses, roads and bridges.

Attorney General Dana Nessel blames the Edenville dam's failure on the “neglect” of its owner, Boyce Hydro.

“They clearly knew what they were supposed to have done. They were told over and over again. Not just over the course of days, or months or years...but for decades, they were told what they needed to do to insure the safety of this dam,” says Nessel. “They outright refused to do it.”

The suit was filed on behalf of the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). 

The lawsuit seeks unspecified compensation and civil fines, along with cleanup and restoration of damages. 

The state is also submitting a motion to compel Boyce Hydro to immediately comply with a state order to fully inspect potentially dangerous cracks and erosion in a damaged portion of the Edenville Dam that is still standing.   

The lawsuit also wants to compel Boyce to repair damages to Michigan’s natural resources and clean up discharges of debris and hazardous materials caused by the dam failures.

“This suit seeks to hold the dam owners accountable for the damage they caused and to recoup the money taxpayers have spent responding to the ongoing emergency created by this devastating flood” says Nessel. 

In the past, attorneys for Boyce Hydro have blamed government regulators for problems with the Edenville Dam.    

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Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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