The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission had been concerned about the Edenville dam’s safety for some time before its eventual breach. Its license was revoked two years before the recent catastrophic flood caused by spillway capacity failure.
According to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) archives, Boyce Hydro Power, the company that owns the Mid-Michigan hydroelectric dam, has an excessive 14-year history of violations, reports the Associated Press. The Edenville dam itself is exactly 95 years old. Per revoking the dam’s federal license in 2018, FERC expressed concerns about its ability to handle “the probable maximum flood” from “the most severe combination of critical meteorologic and hydrologic conditions that is reasonably possible” in the area.
Boyce Hydro has claimed that it had plans to build an auxiliary spillway on the Tittabawassee River, and probably on the Tobacco River, as both breached dams, where the Edenville Dam and the Sanford Dam are located. Nevertheless, it never happened, since the company repeatedly missed deadlines and requested extensions. It also failed to file a proper public safety plan, monitor water quality, or maintain recreation facilities, and performed unauthorized dam repairs as well as earth-moving. It has also lowered Wixom Lake’s water level without permission after the license was revoked, said Nick Assendelft, of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, as quoted by the Associated Press.
The multiple failures of the Edenville Dam and the Sanford Dam caused an evacuation of about 10,000 people who lived along the Tittabawassee River on April 20th. The flood destroyed the dams, fields, roads, and bridges on its way.
Right now, Boyce Hydro was ordered by FERC to inspect three of its other dams, including the damaged Sanford Dam, to see if they are prone to repeat the “cascading failure scenario.” A staff engineer will be sent by the commission to assist the company, says a statement by Chairman Neil Chatterjee.