Edenville Dam Failure

EGLE sends to governor initial status report on failed dams

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy’s initial report to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer provides an update on the ongoing failure investigation of the Edenville Dam and the response actions of EGLE and other agencies following the May 19, 2020, failures of the Edenville and Sanford Dams in Midland and Gladwin Counties. The report is a discussion of the immediate steps taken to protect public health related to the dam structure itself, as well as the various lines of investigation and an update on additional activities.

ASDSO releases review of EGLE’s Dam Safety Program

Following the May 19, 2020 failures, EGLE asked the Association of State Dam Safety Officials (ASDSO) to perform a thorough evaluation of Michigan’s Dam Safety Program.  ASDSO is a national nonprofit organization serving state dam safety programs and the broader dam safety community.  Since 1989, the ASDSO has conducted more than 70 program reviews across the nation.  The evaluation looked at the program's mission and goals, budget and staffing levels, organizational structure, and strength of existing State laws and procedures when compared to a model program.  The final report, which identifies best practices that should be continued or adopted by the program and highlight deficiencies that need to be corrected, is now available. 

EGLE assumed regulatory authority for the 96-year-old Edenville Dam in late 2018 after its license to generate hydropower was revoked by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. EGLE was in the process of reviewing federal records and conducted an initial inspection in October of 2018, finding that it was in fair structural condition. That preliminary assessment was not intended to determine if the dam met state safety standards. EGLE had concerns that the dam might not have enough spillway capacity – which allows water to flow out of the Wixom Lake impoundment –to meet state requirements, and therefore ordered a comprehensive structural assessment of the dam to help determine if it met state spillway, and other, safety requirements. That study had not been received by EGLE prior to the dam failure.

Additionally, EGLE was working with a local stakeholders group to facilitate their purchase of the dam from its owner, Boyce Hydro. That group, the Four Lakes Task Force, had aggressive plans to upgrade the dam and reacquire its federal hydropower generating license. That purchase was imminent when the failure occurred.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has ordered EGLE to coordinate an independent investigation into the causes of the Edenville failure, and to recommend ways that policies, practices, budgeting and other reforms might enhance dam safety in Michigan. EGLE has already initiated the search for an independent investigator, and looks forward to exploring ways Michiganders can be better protected from such risks.

Michigan has approximately 2,523 dams. Of those, 1,153 are regulated by either state (1,059 state) or federal (92) agencies. Some 1,370 smaller dams are not regulated. Of regulated dams, 803 are privately owned and 350 are publicly owned.

Michigan Dams by the Numbers

There are 2 full time EGLE staff dedicated to the safety of Michigan-regulated dams. Out of the 2,521 dams in Michigan, 730 are privately-owned dams regulated by the state, and 329 are publicly-owned dams regulated by the state. 85 state-regulated dams are classified as high hazard, meaning in the event of a breach, there is expectation of severe damage and potential loss of life. Of those dams classified as high hazard, 0 are rated 'unsatisfactory' and 5 are rated in 'poor' condition. All numbers are approximate, as Michigan's dam inventory constantly changes. 

In the 2018 Michigan Infrastructure Report Card, the American Society of Civil Engineers assigned Michigan's dams a C- grade, citing more than $225 million necessary to address the state's aging dams. 271 Michigan dams are over 100 years old. 12% of Michigan dams have a "high" or "significant" hazard potential rating. 67% of Michigan's dams have reached their intended 50-year design life. (Infographic: Michigan Dams by the Numbers)

Background Information

  View the Michigan Regulated Dams Interactive Map


Michigan Regulated Dam Statistics

Database of Michigan Regulated Dams (pdf)

Database of Michigan Regulated Dams (xlsx)

Database of Michigan Regulated Dams (csv)

an infographic depicting the various stats on Michigan regulated dams described in the paragraph above.News Releases:

Other Resources:

Documents/Webinars Related to the Edenville Dam Failure


Date Document/Webinar
12/8/2020 Edenville Dam - Tobacco Spillway Modification Project Schedule
11/13/2020 Edenville Dam Stabilization Project Update Webinar
9/28/2020 Vegetation Growth Within the Drained Impoundment Areas (Bottomland) Frequently Asked Questions
8/31/2020 Preliminary Report on the Edenville Dam Failure, Response Efforts, and Program Reviews, August 31, 2020
8/26/2020 EGLE's Edenville Dam Failure Internal and External Reviews
7/27/2020 Edenville Dam Letter to Senators Lauwers and Outman and associated Senate response documents (165 MB)
7/15/2020 Webinar recording - Permitting Considerations for Recovery Projects after the Mid-Michigan Floods (80 min)
7/8/2020 Webinar recording - Information and Resources for Residents Recovering from the Mid-Michigan Floods (93 minutes)
6/24/2020 Managing Soil and Sediment Deposits in Flood Zones Downstream of Midland - Recommendations
6/19/2020 Edenville Dam Post-Failure Emergency Inspection Report
6/15/2020 Edenville Dam Letter to the United States House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce
6/11/2020 Spicer Group's Inspection Report: Edenville Dam, Spring 2020
6/9/2020 EGLE, DNR lawsuit against Boyce Hydro
6/5/2020 Webinar briefing on EGLE dam inspections
5/1/2020 State's lawsuit against Boyce Hydro Power
10/8/2018 Initial Inspection report, October 2018

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer visited Midland on May 27, 2020 to survey the damage from the flooding and receive an update from the team on the ground. The Governor has directed EGLE to investigate what caused the Edenville and Sanford dams to fail. See below for photos from the governor's visit.

Governor Whitmer with a worker on an overpass looking down at flood damageGovernor Whitmer standing and listening to workers during a visit to the Midland flood area