Gov. Whitmer asks state to investigate failures of Edenville, Sanford dams

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has called for the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) to investigate what caused the Edenville Dam and Sanford Dam to fail last week, resulting in historic flooding in several mid-Michigan counties. 

Gov. Whitmer also asked EGLE to review the larger issue of dam safety in Michigan and provide recommendations on policy, legislative, budgetary, and enforcement reforms that can prevent these harms from repeating elsewhere.

"This flooding forced thousands to evacuate their homes, destroyed public infrastructure, ruined homes and businesses, and caused major natural resource damage,” said Governor Whitmer. “We must ensure accountability and prevent a disaster like this from happening again."

Governor Whitmer also declared a state of emergency on May 19 for Midland City and Midland County and has since expanded the declaration to include additional impacted counties of Arenac, Gladwin, Saginaw, and Iosco to ensure those areas have the resources they need. 

On May 20, Gov. Whitmer sent a letter to President Trump urging him to approve a federal emergency declaration for Midland County, which was approved on May 21.
More than 10,000 people had to evacuate last week after two dams failed after several days of heavy rainfall. 

The Tittabawassee River became engorged late Tuesday, May 19 when the aging Edenville and Sanford dams failed after heavy rain. The river crested Wednesday in Midland, about 140 miles north of Detroit. A number of homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed. 

READ MORE: Wixom Lake in Midland County is virtually empty after two catastrophic dam failures

The owners and operators of both dams are facing multiple lawsuits now

One is a class-action suit filed against Boyce Hydro and manager Lee Mueller. Morgan & Morgan, Grant & Eisenhofer, and the Jenner Law offices, attorneys in the lawsuit, say the flooding was preventable.

“Despite knowing the threat posed by these unsafe dams, the defendants allegedly refused to pay for much-needed repairs and upgrades,” stated Frank Petosa, spokesman for the law firms.

The other lawsuit also filed in federal court in Detroit. It alleges that Boyce Hydro “failed to operate, fix, or repair the dams in accordance with the established standard of care, resulting in catastrophic injury and damage to residents and their properties.”

That lawsuit also names the state Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

The Associated Press contributed to this report