Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer sent a letter to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy on Wednesday asking the department to investigate what caused the failure of the Edenville and Sanford dams.
The two dams failed last week after heavy rainfall in mid-Michigan. The resulting flood displaced around 10,000 people across several counties and was so heavy it was classified as a 500-year flood, meaning it is likely to happen only once every 500 years, according to MLive. Whitmer issued an emergency declaration and sent in the National Guard.
“This flooding forced thousands to evacuate their homes, destroyed public infrastructure, ruined homes and businesses and caused major natural resource damage,” Whitmer said in a statement. “We must ensure accountability and prevent a disaster like this from happening again. I want to thank the first responders and volunteers who have stepped up to help in this time of unprecedented need.”
An investigation commissioned by federal investigators revealed that it was reported in 2018 that federal energy regulators had yanked the Edenville Dam operator’s licenses over concern that the dam could not pass enough water during a flood, according to MLive. Capacity issues at the dam have been cited as a problem as early as the late 1990s.
Whitmer has asked EGLE to investigate not only what caused the two dams to fail, but also dam safety in Michigan. She also asked the department to provide recommendations on policy, legislative, budgetary and enforcement reforms that will help prevent the event from repeating elsewhere.
“Among other factors, I ask that you examine the storm event, the structural integrity of the dam, the dam owner’s compliance and the handoff of regulatory oversight from the federal to state government,” Whitmer said in the letter.
The governor said it “warms my heart” to see an outpouring of generosity for the area affected by the flood.
“As residents begin the painstaking task of picking up the pieces from this disaster, they deserve to know why these dams failed, uprooting their homes, businesses and lives in the process,” Whitmer said.
– – –
Jordyn Pair is a reporter with The Michigan Star. Follow her on Twitter at @JordynPair. Email her at [email protected]