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Mid-Michigan residents react to report saying 2020 dam failures could have been prevented

In a report, an independent forensic team investigating the breach of the Edenville and Sanford Dams said the destruction of homes and businesses displacing tho
Published: May. 5, 2022 at 9:33 PM EDT
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MIDLAND CO., Mich. (WNEM) - In a report, an independent forensic team investigating the breach of the Edenville and Sanford Dams said the destruction of homes and businesses displacing thousands of residents should have never happened.

The report found both human and physical factors played a role in the 2020 flood.

“There used to be an ice cream store there, a couple houses there, and there were different houses here in town that were lost,” said Midland County resident Ervin Haines.

Those were some of the many casualties of the catastrophe that occurred the day the Edenville Dam gave way unleashing billions of gallons of water that flooded several communities downstream two years ago this month.

10,000 were forced to evacuate and 150 homes were destroyed.

An expert panel said this all could have been prevented.

Sanford and nearby residents agreed with the panel.

“Had the government fulfilled their obligation, it wouldn’t have happened,” Haines said.

“It makes you feel like you were cheated,” said Sanford resident Tom Williams.

The experts are a team of forensic engineers appointed by the federal energy regulatory commission.

In their 500-page report, they call the Edenville Dam problematic from the start, citing inconsistent design plans and specifications along with errors and miscalculations over the course of nearly 100 years.

“Makes you not have a lot of faith in the government,” Haines said.

The Edenville Dam is among a network of four dams. The Sanford Lake Dam also failed because of the sudden rush of water flowing south from Wixom Lake.

The report didn’t point a finger at one individual or organization.

It said the overall system for financing, designing, building, operating, and upgrading the four dams fell short.

“They are both, the owners and the state, responsible. There’s negligence both ways, which is sad. A lot of people suffered from this,” Williams said.

Williams said he lives on the lake, which remains drained, and the resulting decline in property value is pushing him out of the area.

“We are putting our place on the market, we’re moving on. We’re not waiting on the dams to come back,” Williams said.