State wins legal victory against owners of failed Edenville dam

The state has won a legal victory in the fight against the owners of the Edenville Dam, one of the two structures that failed in the spring of 2020, causing cat
Published: Oct. 4, 2022 at 10:50 PM EDT
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SAGINAW, Mich. (WNEM) - The state has won a legal victory in the fight against the owners of the Edenville Dam, one of the two structures that failed in the spring of 2020, causing catastrophic flooding in mid-Michigan.

A federal court has determined the owners misled people about the reasons behind the initial failure.

“It’s not going to change the facts of the case substantially, other than to, you know, to establish that we’re all working from the same ground rules,” said Hugh McDiarmid Jr., the communications manager for the state Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy.

The May 2020 dam failure drained Wixom Lake and caused the subsequent failure of the Sanford Dam.

In reaching its decision, the U.S. District Court established several facts in the lawsuit arising from the failure, and in doing so it exposed a “misleading and false narrative crafted by the defendants” to blame the failure on the state.

“The dam owners contended at the time that they had asked for lower lake levels permanently, and that the state had denied the request and they had requested that for safety reasons,” McDiarmid said. “We could find no record of any such request, and so that that actually didn’t happen. That’s been an enduring myth.”

Today’s decision will not bring immediate relief for those affected by the catastrophic flooding.

However, it creates a legal foundation as the state moves forward to hold Boyce Hydro accountable for what the state says was years of neglect of the Edenville dam.

“It’s not going to restore property that is damaged,” McDiarmid said “It’s not going to get the you know, a dam rebuilt any faster. But what it will do is it helps sort of clear the air, establish the facts around dam failure, so that so that so that folks can figure out exactly what happened and why it happened, and how it might be prevented again.”