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Feds Spent 20 Years Warning Edenville Dam Was in Danger Before it Collapsed

By Alice Zhong

Boyce Hydro took over operations of Edenville Dam in 2004 and, according to documents filed by FERC officials (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission), the company had not come up with adequate plans for increasing spillway capacity in the past 13 years.

According to a June 2017 compliance order written by Jennifer Hill, who was the director of FERC’s division of hydropower administration and compliance, Boyce Hydro had a “longstanding failure to address [the dam’s] inadequate spillway capacity.” She noted that Edenville Dam had a high hazard rating, foreshadowing that it may result in “a threat to human life and/or would cause significant property damage.”

Hill wrote in the 2017 compliance order that Boyce Hydro had ignored multiple directives from regional FERC officials regarding increasing the dam’s capacity to handle large-scale floods. According to the compliance order, Boyce Hydro and FERC met in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009 to discuss the need to increase the dam’s capacity. On September 10, 2018, FERC revoked the company’s license to operate the dam, stating the company “failed to comply with obligations set out” in the compliance order, aside from acquiring and documenting property rights that FERC had required.

Although government regulatory authorities consistently cautioned the dam’s failure to deal with huge flooding, it took 13 years for government authorities to punish the dam’s driver after more than years of continuously encouraging them to follow the regards to their certificate.

The Edenville Dam, constructed in 1924, collapsed on Tuesday night, resulting in the evacuation of hundreds of individuals from Midland as well as the bordering neighborhoods. The flooding can leave long-lasting ecological results after waters from the Tittabawassee as well as Tobacco rivers blended with a Dow Chemical containment pond as well as swamped a federal Superfund site downriver triggered by Dow’s launch of dioxins years earlier.

“FERC continues to follow the reports on the situation at the Edenville and Sanford Dams. Our primary concern is the safety of Michigan residents, and we urge them all to continue heeding evacuation guidance by local emergency management agencies,” claimed Neil Chatterjee, FERC’s chairman, in a composed declaration. “When it is appropriate and safe to do so, FERC will send a staff engineer to the site to assist with the investigation. The Commission pledges to work closely with state officials and coordinate our investigatory efforts wherever possible.”

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