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Five important resources for information about dam safety in Michigan and the 2020 dam failures

Exposed bottomlands after our completed emergency work to lower the spillway on the Tobacco River side of the Edenville dam.The Edenville and Sanford dams failed one year ago this week, raising awareness of dams across Michigan and the state's role in regulating the approximately 2,600 structures in Michigan.

Here are five public resources available through the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) that may be helpful for stakeholders.

  • Michigan Dam Safety Task Force report to the Governor: The Task Force was formed to evaluate the statutory structure, budget, and program design of the Water Resources Division Dam Safety Program, the adequacy of Michigan's dam safety standards and the level of investment needed in Michigan's dam infrastructure. Its final report provided 86 recommendations across eight key areas: funding for dam maintenance, repair and removal; legislation and authority; improving dam safety; compliance and enforcement; emergency response; program management, funding and budgeting; safety and security; and outreach and awareness. The recommendations will lead to more robust and effective oversight of Michigan's dams, many of which are aging, poorly maintained and/or inadequately engineered for changing environmental conditions.
  • Interactive map of dams regulated by the State of Michigan: Click on a dot representing one of the dams on the map and a pop-up box will provide information such as the dam identification number, downstream hazard potential, the name of the dam's owner, which legal authority applies to its oversight (Part 315 for regulated dams and/or Part 307 for legal lake level control structures), last inspection date and condition assessment. Future plans are to make this a richer interactive experience with links to inspection reports and other pertinent information.
  • Association of State Dam Safety Officials peer review of EGLE's dam safety program: Following the dam failures, EGLE asked 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. 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 report's recommendations informed the Michigan Dam Safety Task Force in developing its recommendation to the Governor.
  • Floodplain management and National Flood Insurance Program: It is estimated that about 6 percent of Michigan's land is flood-prone, including about 200,000 buildings. The need for floodplain information and availability of insurance came to light once again after the breached dams caused floods downstream, forced some 10,000 residents to evacuate; destroyed homes, businesses, roads, bridges, and other infrastructure; and caused an estimated $200 million in damage. EGLE's floodplain and NFIP webpage is a trove of information including maps, data, studies, contact information, FAQs, permits and related resources. Michigan's Department of Insurance and Financial Services (DIFS) also provides information about flood insurance, as does the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) NFIP page.
  • EGLE web pages related to dam regulation, Edenville dam tragedy: On EGLE's homepage you'll find a direct link to the department's Dam Safety Unit webpage, which includes information about dam operations, laws and rules, safety tips around dams, FEMA publications, a map of staff territories and more. You will also find a link to the Edenville Dam Recovery webpage, which houses information related to the dam failures: story maps, reports, interactive map, news releases and other resources.

To report dam safety emergencies, call 800-292-4706.

Photo caption: Edenville Dam breach at the Tittabawassee River.

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