EGLE to hire third dam inspector, appoint task force that will evaluate Dam Safety Program
The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) today announced important next steps to improve the safety of state-regulated dams throughout Michigan.
EGLE is expected to soon hire a senior environmental engineer to act as a third inspector in its Dam Safety Program, an important first step in bolstering the program under EGLE’s Water Resources Division. The inspector will increase team efficiencies in tracking the more than 1,050 state-regulated dams.
Besides adding a third inspector, EGLE continues to evaluate the need for changes in the Dam Safety Program as it awaits recommendations from dual outside evaluations that are expected to identify possible policy, budget, legislative, and enforcement reforms.
EGLE has partnered with the Association of State Dam Safety Officials (ASDSO) to perform one of the two independent reviews of the state’s Dam Safety Program. The review will recommend ways to improve the performance and management of the program, and evaluate its mission, objectives, and policies and procedures.
The second review will be performed by the Michigan Dam Safety Task Force comprised of state and federal agencies, local governments and affected stakeholders to review dam safety issues in Michigan and provide recommendations to help prevent future dam failures. The Task Force will evaluate and expand upon the ASDSO findings and propose recommendations for program improvements that would help ensure that dams are appropriately maintained, operated and overseen to ensure the safety of Michigan’s citizens and aquatic resources.
In June, EGLE announced a team of six independent experts who will perform an independent forensic investigation of the contributing factors that led to the failures of the Edenville and Sanford dams in May in mid-Michigan. The team includes outside experts in geotechnical engineering, hydraulics, dam safety and dam design. Boyce Hydro, which owns both dams and is legally obligated to pay for the investigation into the failures of its dams, has refused to come to an agreement with the investigative team on a contract to perform its work. Boyce has also ignored key deadlines to perform critical post-failure evaluations and work related to the portion of the Edenville Dam along the Tobacco River.
The independent team’s full investigation could take up to 18 months to complete.
Since the mid-May floods, EGLE staff has developed plans to assess stream channel stability and identify areas of potential erosion problems along the former dam impoundments and stream channel; inspected several dams impacted by the flooding within the region to assess actual damages and review mitigation measures; provided support to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Fisheries Division, which conducted natural resources damage surveys associated with the dam failures; and were onsite on the day of the dam failures to assist with damage assessment, mitigation measures and coordinate with local emergency management personnel. EGLE has also communicated with all owners of Michigan dams that have a high or significant hazard potential to coordinate next steps in maintaining or updating infrastructure.
The Dam Safety Program regulates certain dams under Part 307, Inland Lake Levels, and Part 315, Dam Safety, of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act.