- The Edenville dam in Michigan’s Midland and Gladwin counties failed on Tuesday afternoon, causing a downstream dam to also fail.
- The dam failures caused major flooding in Midland and Gladwin counties, and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency.
- The Edenville Dam had its power generation licence revoked in 2018 over concerns that it couldn’t handle major flooding.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
One of the dams that failed in Michigan on Tuesday faced numerous safety violations over the years, and had its licence for power generation revoked in 2018 over fears it couldn’t survive a flood.
The Edenville Dam broke on Tuesday afternoon amid heavy rainfall, causing the downstream Sanford Dam on the Tittabawassee River to fail, leading to major flooding in Midland and Gladwin counties.
The extent of damage from the floods remains unknown, but thousands of people were told to evacuate and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency, saying parts of Michigan could see up to 9 feet of flood water.
In the years leading up to the dam failures, the Edenville Dam faced concerns over its need to increase the capacity of its spillway, which allows excess water to flow in without damaging the structure, according to The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press.
The Edenville Dam spans the Tittabawassee and Tobacco rivers and creates a storage reservoir known as Wixom Lake. In 1998 it was licensed for hydro-power generation and was equipped with two 2.4 megawatt turbine generators. Issues began shortly thereafter.
In as early as 1999, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission told the dam’s then-owner to increase its spillway capacity to prevent major floods.
The agency issued another notification in 2004 after the dam was acquired by Boyce Hydro Power.
In 2017, the agency cited Boyce Hydro Power, saying there was a “longstanding failure to address the project’s inadequate spillway capacity at this high hazard dam.” Boyce Hydro Power own four dams along the Tittabawassee.
Jennifer Hill, director of the division of Hydropower Administration and Compliance said at the time that the capacity of the spillway needed to be increased to “protect life, limb, and property,” according to The Detroit News.
The dam’s hydro-power generation licence was ultimately revoked in 2018, when the FERC said its lack of spillway capacity could be a “hazard to downstream life or property.”
“Currently, spillway capacity at the Edenville Project can only pass about 50 per cent of the [Probably Maximum Flood],” FERC wrote in the order.
The FERC also noted that the firm had a history of noncompliance which ranged from “failing to report structural instability to inadequate water quality monitoring,”
Boyce Hydro Power did not comment on the violation issues in a statement to the Free Press.
“Boyce Hydro is unavailable for comment or discussion at this time due to the complexity of issues associated with this event. At present we are focused on the continuing operations of the other hydroelectric facilities that are fully functioning,” said the statement from Lee Mueller, Boyce’s co-member manager.
Insider has also contacted Mueller for comment.
- Read more:
- Michigan declares an emergency after 2 dams collapse threatening a town with 9 feet of flooding
- 20 photos of the worst hurricanes that have hit the United States
- The coldest spring temperatures ever recorded in every state
- ‘It looks like a war zone’: Nashville tornado survivors say they saw a green sky and gutted buildings following the storms