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DNR seeks additional inspection of Cornwall Flooding dam

Earlier this year, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources announced a plan to draw down the impoundment behind the Cornwall Flooding dam in Cheboygan County to address public safety and infrastructure concerns.

Since then, the DNR has been working with partners to seek funding and execute a more detailed inspection by an independent firm to better inform the department on the safest, most efficient options for moving forward with this high hazard dam. The DNR is also seeking renovation funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“Partner support and funding are critical to the future of Cornwall Flooding dam,” said Randy Claramunt, chief of the DNR Fisheries Division. “With additional support and more complete data, we can look further into options for high hazard dams such as Cornwall.

“We understand that Cornwall Flooding is an important part of the surrounding community, as well as an outdoor recreation draw for people who love to fish, kayak and watch wildlife, but protecting the safety of area visitors and everyone living downstream has to be a top priority,” Claramunt said. “We are eager to find workable solutions that, hopefully, can meet a variety of goals.”

The Cornwall Flooding dam was built in 1966 and is classified by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy as a high hazard dam. This means that the dam is in an area where a failure may cause serious damage to inhabited homes or infrastructure downstream, where environmental degradation would be significant, or where danger to individuals exists with the potential for the loss of life.

The approach to seek funding from FEMA is consistent with past attempts to seek support for repairing Cornwall dam. A proposal submitted to FEMA for repair of Cornwall in 2021 was unsuccessful. Claramunt said the new proposal to FEMA will need strong stakeholder support, but even then there is no guarantee that it will be successful in the application process. Without funding, either internal or external, the DNR will still need to address safety concerns.

In addition to FEMA support, several Michigan legislators have been pursuing funding for the needed Cornwall repairs.

With a detailed inspection, support for internal funding from stakeholders and the pending FEMA application, drawdown of the Cornwall Flooding dam may be averted if these efforts are successful.

The DNR is in the process of evaluating more than 200 state-owned dams throughout Michigan, including at the Cornwall impoundment, to determine next best actions as the agency balances the environmental, social, safety and financial considerations of owning, maintaining and repairing dams.

Use the EGLE Regulated Dams Web Map for information – ownership, condition and hazard potential – about other dams regulated by the state of Michigan.
Tim Cwalinski, 989-732-3541, ext. 5072 or Randy Claramunt, 231-622-3820