FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 21, 2021
Nick Assendelft, Public Information Officer, AssendelftN@Michigan.gov, 517-388-3135
Local, state approvals may be necessary for access or activities
With warmer weather here, residents who were affected by the Mid-Michigan dam failures are reminded to check local and state rules before taking part in any activity on the lake and river bottomlands that are now exposed due to lower water levels.
Vegetation and trees have sprouted in areas that were formerly covered by water along the river and lake system that was created by four dams in Gladwin and Midland counties. As a result, the exposed bottomlands may not be stable and could be dangerous to walk or drive on.
"The terrain of the now exposed bottomlands is a dangerous place for recreating, fires can spread quickly, accidents can happen and the first responders lack proper access to assist," said Jay Eickholt, emergency management coordinator for the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE). "Please follow all posted guidance and recreate in appropriate ways this summer."
The Edenville and Sanford dams failed in May 2020, dramatically lowering the water levels in the impoundments behind the two dams, the Smallwood and Secord dams upstream and on the Tittabawassee and Tobacco rivers and local streams. Additional bottomlands have also been exposed following emergency work completed in February to lower the Tobacco spillway on the Edenville Dam, bringing water levels down by as much as 12 feet.
Plant growth is a natural process and can stabilize the exposed land areas and minimize erosion. Vegetation should be allowed to grow wherever possible and residents should seek permission before removing plants or trees. Apply for the necessary EGLE permits and check with the Four Lakes Task Force, which owns the dams and the bottomlands, before clearing vegetation not on private property or performing other projects.
Do not burn any material unless permitted by local authorities and follow all local ordinances for waste disposal. Debris burning is the No. 1 cause of wildfires in Michigan, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and spring is a dangerous time for wildfires. Read EGLE's open burning webpage to learn more about regulations and permits.
EGLE provides a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document for residents concerned about sprouting and growing vegetation, including:
The FAQ includes links for more information about invasive species and to local and state resources.
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