Michigan approves plan to impose millions in fees on victims of dam failures

August 5, 2022 0 By Cypher9ja

On July 12, more than two years after multiple dam failures triggered flooding across Central Michigan, the commissioners of Midland and Gladwin counties unanimously endorsed a three-year special assessment plan developed by the Four Lakes Task Force, a non-profit organization delegated by the counties to develop restoration and maintenance plans for the dams and related lakes.

The Tittabawassee River overflows, Wednesday, May 20, 2020, in Midland, Michigan. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

With a projected restoration cost of between $250 and 300 million, the assessment plan calls for taxing residents just over $4.6 million. As a result, homeowners, many of whom were devastated by the flooding, now face annual assessment fees of hundreds of dollars.

Current dam reconstruction and lake restoration plans call for completion in 2026. But the Four Lakes Task Force notes that this timeline hinges on proper funding for the project, which is by no means guaranteed.

On May 19, 2020, heavy rainfall triggered the collapse of the Edenville and Smallwood dams and the breaching of the Sanford Dam, all property of now-bankrupt Boyce Hydro LLC, located along the Tittabawassee River in Central Michigan. The historic flooding annihilated the Village of Sanford, decimated the city of Midland and damaged parts of Gladwin County, initially displacing over 10,000 residents. The event caused over $209 million in damages and was officially declared a state and federal disaster.

The rise of Tittabawassee River water levels flooded chemical containment ponds on the Midland Dow Complex, located along the river. Due to the efforts of Dow Chemical to block testing reports, it remains unknown what chemicals leaked from the ponds and whether dioxin contamination spread from a downstream Superfund clean-up site.

After the initial disaster, which unfolded amid the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US, private firms employing highly exploited migrant workers took over clean-up efforts for institutions such as the Mid-Michigan Medical Center-Midland, causing COVID-19 outbreaks among workers.

The Sanford, Wixom and Secord lakes remain either empty or at low water levels, triggering lakeside erosion and rampant vegetation growth in the lake beds. In Gladwin County, 600 wells have experienced water pressure loss as a result of the draining of Wixom Lake.

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