MIDLAND CO. Mich. - The previous owner of the Edenville hydroelectric dam that failed to hold back rising floodwaters and eventually ruptured Tuesday had its license revoked in 2018.
Boyce Hydro Power which operated the dam before agreeing to sell it this year had failed for years to make repairs to it. In 2018, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) ordered the company to shut down all electric-generating equipment. Among chief concerns from the regulatory commission was potential for the dam to fail if floodwaters rose to high.
On Tuesday, after heavy rain over the weekend and into the week, the dam ruptured allowing water from the Wixom lake to spill through the barrier. The rushing waters then burst another dam, forcing the evacuation of thousands of residents around the Tittabawassee River and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to issue a state of emergency for Midland County.
In FERC's report, it concluded the dam's capacity for overflow could only take 50% of the maximum potential flooding. The National Weather Service warned the river that broke through will crest at 38 feet, four feet higher than the record set in 1986.
Cited issues with the Edenville Dam have dogged Boyce Hydro Power for years.
"Since 2004, the licensee has repeatedly failed to comply with schedules for filing plans and completing measures and has frequently and repeatedly requested more time to complete requirements," read a response by the commission after Boyce Hydro Power sought to issue a stay order after FERC ordered its license revoked.
The company first acquired the dam in 2004 after having a license transferred to them. Several reported violations soon followed as the company continually requested extensions for new projects to repair structural issues with the dam.
However, even before Boyce Hydro Power had acquired the dam, FERC had warned previous owners as early as 1999 that the dam could potentially fail in the event of extreme flooding. Since acquiring the dam, the company failed to report "structural instability" and did not perform necessary repairs. It also failed to file an adequate safety plan, build up recreation facilities, and comply with water quality monitoring.
“The Edenville dam has a high hazard potential rating, which means a failure of the project’s works would create a threat to human life and/or would cause significant property damage.”