Owner of mid-Michigan dam that collapsed, sent thousands fleeing found liable for $119M in damages

TOPSHOT - A man walks across a washed out West Saginaw Road in Sanford, Michigan, on May 21,2020, after the area saw heavy flooding and damage from heavy rains throughout central Michigan . - More than 10,000 residents were evacuating their homes in

The previous owner of the mid-Michigan dam that collapsed before flooding the city of Midland has been found liable for more than $119 million in damages.

A federal judge issued a default judgment against Lee Mueller, whose company Boyce Hydro owned the Edenville Dam when it was breached by extreme floodwaters that forced the evacuation of more than 10,000 people in 2020. 

In his ruling, Judge Paul Maloney said the state was entitled $119,825,000 and that Mueller was liable, which includes tens of millions of dollars in damages to the state's fisheries and its freshwater mussel ecosystem.

The judgment comes months after it was determined both Mueller and his company were responsible for the flood. He's since declared bankruptcy.

Dana Nessel has pursued relief in the years since the disaster on behalf of both the department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, as well as the department of Natural Resources.

"The dam’s ownership completely disregarded imminent threats to the safety and integrity of the dam, and as the State clearly demonstrated before the Court, Lee Meuller and his business were responsible for the disaster that struck Edenville and other area communities," the state attorney general said. "This nearly $120 million judgement is important, both as a measure of accountability to the community Mueller devastated and as a deterrent to other owners of critical infrastructure." 


Property owners suing Michigan over dam failures score win in court

A court refused to dismiss several lawsuits linking dam failures to decisions from the state.

EGLE Director Phil Roos called the impacts from both the Edenville and Sanford Dams "avoidable."

"The courts have rightly declared that owners of critical infrastructure must not put their own interests ahead of the safety of Michiganders, our environment, or our natural resources. EGLE remains committed to supporting the community through permitting replacement structures as it rebuilds."