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Mid-Michigan lake front property owners may have to pay assessment to get their lakes back

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

Thousands oflake front property ownersin mid-Michigan may have to pay hundreds or potentially thousands of dollars a year to get their lakes back.

The Edenville and Sanford damswere overwhelmed after days of heavy rain back in May. The dam breaches helped create a 500-year flood along the Tittabawassee Riverthat forced thousands to evacuate their homes in Midland, Gladwin and Saginaw counties.

But the flood waters that inundated communities downstream drained fromWixomand Sanford lakes. Today, those lake beds have largely turned green as plants have replaced water views for formerly lake front homes.

Repairing the two dams, upgrading two others upstream and restoring the lakes will cost an estimated $338 million. Restoration of the lakes may take another three to six years.    

David Kepler is the president of the Four Lakes Task Force. The task force was in the process of buying the series of four dams when the two dams failed. 

Kepler says the task force is looking at assessing property owners several hundred to potentially several thousand dollars a year to pay for the restoration.  The assessment could be in place for 30 to 40 years.  The amount each property owner would pay varies on where they live.  

Estimated Assessment Range for a Residential Lake Home on 300 ft. or Less of Frontage: The estimated planning range of average yearly assessment values by lake are as follows: • Secord $237 to $445 • Smallwood $410 to $769 • Wixom $1,477 to $2,772 • Sanford $1,650 to $3,098

“There is no other process...unless there’s other money available and we’re going to look at those other paths. But the funding of last resort are the home owners around the lake,” says Kepler. 

Kepler notes that the people potentially asked to pay the assessment are spread over many parts of the region and in different circumstances.

“When you have something this big, there are going to be people who see this as reasonable and people who feel they can’t afford it...and we have to address that,” says Kepler.

The Four Lakes Task Force is planning a series of meetings to explain to homeowners their plan to restore and maintain the dams.    

In January and February, the Four Lakes Task Force will send a community survey to all property owners to understand their acceptability of the assessments and the burden it may create.

A final decision on the assessment plan is not expected until Spring 2021.

Meanwhile, the company that owns the failed dams has filed for bankruptcy protection amid a flurry of lawsuits.

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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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