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Addressing known threats before they happen

Michigan’s history of industry helped develop the United States and Michigan. As the decades passed and a new century began, the impact that many of these industries had is still visible across Michigan. Harnessing the power of the rivers and streams with dams across the state powered the factories, ground the wheat, and created water sources. However, over time many of these dams have become the only standing remnants of the past. Through changing owners and development along the shores of the impounded water, there has always been one constant, a need to maintain these water-control structures to protect the communities that have utilized them for generations.

 Assessing damage to the Smallwood Dam following the May 2020 flood. 

Assessing damage to the Smallwood Dam following the May 2020 flood.


However, maintenance of these large and critical structures is expensive and can be daunting for small organizations who own them. That is why EGLE Water Resources Division’s Dam Safety Unit assists with oversight of these non-electricity producing dams’ emergency response plans, and this year introduced grant funding to assist with repair or removal of dams with known safety issues. This grant program aims to provide private owners with resources for proper management of sixteen existing dams and reduce the overall risk of dam failure in Michigan.

With just over $15 million provided to communities across Michigan, EGLE is taking a proactive approach in dealing with these known hazards in our communities. 

Dam safety preparedness took front stage this year in Michigan as part of the 2023 statewide emergency response exercise in August. Emergency managers and first responders from local, state, and federal agencies worked through a catastrophic emergency response scenario to activate coordination centers, test emergency plans, and document areas for improvement. Jay Eickholt, EGLE Emergency Management coordinator says that “by testing response strategies and working through established plans we can identify areas for improvement in a controlled environment and be better prepared.”