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Federal Court Orders $119 Million Judgment Against Former Edenville Dam Owner, Operator
November 28, 2023
LANSING – Yesterday, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan awarded the State a monetary judgment against Lee Mueller, whose business owned and operated the Edenville Dam and is responsible for the 2020 catastrophe. The judgment is in the amount of $119,825,000, announced Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel. The Department of Attorney General filed the motion seeking judgment on behalf of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
“The dam’s ownership completely disregarded imminent threats to the safety and integrity of the dam, and as the State clearly demonstrated before the Court, Lee Meuller and his business were responsible for the disaster that struck Edenville and other area communities,” said Nessel. “This nearly $120 million judgment is important, both as a measure of accountability to the community Mueller devastated and as a deterrent to other owners of critical infrastructure.”
“In 2020, after historic flooding and dam failures, we made a promise to the community to do whatever it takes to make them whole again and hold bad actors accountable for the devastating damage,” said Governor Whitmer. “It was incredible to see neighbors helping each other with food and shelter, contractors working quickly to repair roads and bridges, and the legislature coming together to secure $200 million to rebuild the dams. I want to thank Attorney General Nessel for leading this years-long effort to bring justice on behalf of the thousands of Michiganders who’ve suffered in the aftermath of the dam failure. In tough times, we come together as Michiganders to support each other.”
“The failures of the Edenville and Sanford Dams caused impacts that were devastating, but avoidable,” said Phil Roos, EGLE director. “The courts have rightly declared that owners of critical infrastructure must not put their own interests ahead of the safety of Michiganders, our environment, or our natural resources. EGLE remains committed to supporting the community through permitting replacement structures as it rebuilds.”
The judgment concludes the State’s civil enforcement action against Lee Mueller and his companies that owned and operated the Edenville Dam, which has been ongoing since June 2020. The east embankment of the dam failed on May 19, 2020, sending a surge of water downstream that resulted in catastrophe for the surrounding communities. The Court ruled in February that Mueller himself was responsible for the failure, before ruling in October that his company, Boyce Hydro, was also responsible. In that ruling, the Court held the State had “brought sufficient evidence to show that Defendants knew of its dam’s vulnerability and that Defendants did not make EGLE aware of that vulnerability. Defendants do not dispute either assertion.”