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AG Nessel Files Action Against Van Buren County Village for Violating NREPA

LANSING - After repeated warnings from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), the Village of Breedsville faces civil litigation for improperly filling a regulated wetland area and riverbed, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced today. 

In the complaint, filed on behalf of EGLE, the Department of Attorney General asserts that the Van Buren County village violated the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act (NREPA). 

The Village of Breedsville owns property next to the South Branch Black River. In 2008, a dam at the location suffered a breach, which caused an uncontrolled release of impounded water. At that time, EGLE (then called the Department of Environmental Quality) notified the village that any attempt to reconstruct the dam would require a permit. 

In July 2020, EGLE staff observed the unauthorized placement of fill by the village in a portion of the river, in violation of various parts of the NREPA. Despite notice to the village president to stop, work continued without a proper permit. 

Then, in August 2020, EGLE sent a violation notice requesting information and ordering restoration of the unauthorized impacts but received no response. Another inspection followed and EGLE again observed additional fill placed in the water. There was also unstable soil with steep slopes to the water's edge, soil had entered the water, and there was no soil erosion and sedimentation control permit or plan on site.  

Last February, EGLE issued an enforcement notice for the prior NREPA violations and an additional violation for repairing or reconstructing a failed dam without a permit. Another inspection conducted by EGLE in September revealed additional fill placed in wetlands, on bottomlands, and within the 100-year floodplain. 

The filed complaint - which is now available on the Department of Attorney General's website - requests that the Court order Breedsville to pay a civil fine for past violations, remove the fill and restore the property to the condition immediately before the violations. It also asks that the village be prohibited from violating the NREPA in the future. 

"The Village of Breedsville has had years to properly address the environmental concerns created by this improper response to the dam breach," Nessel said. "We will continue to work with our client agency to ensure appropriate action is taken to protect that area - and the community - from additional damage." 

In a separate action, EGLE issued a Dam Safety Order under Part 315 of the NREPA, ordering the village to remove the Breedsville Dam as it was reconstructed without proper engineering design and oversight and has accumulated debris at the spillway, creating a condition that elevates the dam's risk of failure. An uncontrolled release of impounded water and sediment would negatively impact natural resources and potentially put public safety and property at risk.