Days of heavy rain proved to be too much for the dam to handle
Several areas in mid-Michigan are flooded after a Tittabawassee River hydroelectric dam failure.
The dam failure comes as no surprise to many. Regulators had considered the dam to be a safety hazard that wouldn’t be able to withstand heavy flooding.
The Edenville Dam’s operator’s license had been pulled back in 2018 over the safety concerns that it couldn’t pass enough water in a flood.
Water can be seen slowly escaping the earthen dam on Tuesday, May 20, before it quickly collapses.
“This is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before,” said Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, during a press conference.
“This truly is a historic event that is playing out in the midst of another historic event and so we need to make sure that we keep our wits about us and work on this together,” he continued.
A dam failure that could’ve been avoided
Regulators claim the dam failure is because owner Boyce Hydro was non-compliant with regulations requesting the dam be upgraded.
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) records show the Edenville Dam spillway had cited capacity issues dating back to the 1990s.
FERC deputy secretary Nathaniel Davis wrote that Boyce Hydro “has repeatedly failed to comply” with regulators to “develop and implement plans and schedules to address the fact that the project spillways are not adequate to pass the probable maximum flood, thereby creating a grave danger to the public.”
The public was unfortunately put in serious danger as a result of the dam failure.
Around 10,000 people will be evacuated.
After the dam broke on Tuesday night, floodwaters topped the Sanford Dam, making the situation worse. Downtown Midland could see waters reach 9 feet over flood stage.
The National Guard is deployed in the area and is helping displaced residents find cover in the shelters they’ve made.