‘Just frustration’: Flood victims respond to new Edenville Dam information

According to Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, the former owner of the Edenville Dam knew that it could fail if water levels in Wixom Lake were too high.
Published: May. 26, 2023 at 6:32 PM EDT
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MID-MICHIGAN (WNEM) - The Michigan Attorney General claimed the former owner of the Edenville Dam knew that it could fail if water levels in Wixom Lake were too high back in 2010, claiming the owner put profits over people.

“Just frustration,” said flood victim Robert Yahrmarkt.

Residents are upset after learning a manmade disaster could’ve been avoided.

Attorney General Dana Nessel said in 2010, Lee Mueller, the owner of Boyce Hydro, which at the time operated the Edenville Dam, knew its east embankment might fail if Wixom Lake rose too high, which is exactly what happened 10 years later.

Related: AG’s office releases new information about Edenville Dam failure

Yahrmarkt lives just downstream from the Edenville Dam.

“If you have imminent danger, and you’re going to cause flooding for thousands of people, then you have to take over yourself and do things that need to be done,” Yahrmarkt said.

Nessel said that instead of making repairs to keep people safe, Mueller spent money on expensive and unproductive side projects, such as trying to hold a music festival at the dam or trying to transform the dam into a marina or RV park.

Nessel said a former Boyce Hydro employee told the court what Mueller thought about shoring up the dam. The chief operator testified that he tried to persuade Mueller that he was “in the hydro business now, you got to pay attention,” but Mueller responded, “I’m not in the hydro business… I’m in the money-making business.”

Sanford Village President Dolores Porte said if she was him, she would be ashamed of herself.

“I would just be so remorseful. And I would ask him, ‘Are you even remorseful that this happened to people?’” said Porte.

Porte said she was taken aback by these new revelations.

“My gosh. You put money before all these people’s lives and their livelihood. Money for just yourself? It’s just by the grace of God that no one died,” she said.

The Four Lakes Task Force (FLTF), the current owner of the Edenville Dam, released the following statement:

We were not aware of this information prior to the Attorney General’s release and we do not have any additional specifics. Our focus is on rebuilding the dams and restoring our communities and lakes. Our sympathies continue to be with those impacted by the tragic events of May 2020.

Yahrmarkt said he’s looking forward to the day the FLTF accomplishes its goal of bringing the water back.

“When water starts to come up in Sanford Lake, or in Secord, I’ll be a happy person,” he said.

Nessel said the state is working to pursue a default judgment against Mueller personally, whom the court has already determined is at fault for the dam’s failure.

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