Feds say life in prison 'sufficient' for Whitmer kidnap plotter

Feds direct Edenville Dam owner to set up independent probe into failure

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

A federal regulatory agency has asked Boyce Hydro, the owner of the Edenville and Sanford dams, to establish an independent investigation team to determine what caused water to overflow the Sanford Dam. 

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission also will "reach out" to Michigan regulators regarding the Edenville Dam, which fell under state regulatory jurisdiction after FERC pulled the dam's power generation license in 2018 because of safety concerns

The commission is following reports on flooding resulting from failures at both dams, but the primary concern is resident safety, said Neil Chatterjee, chairman for the commission. 

"When it is appropriate and safe to do so, FERC will send a staff engineer to the site to assist with the investigation," Chatterjee said. "The commission pledges to work closely with state officials and coordinate our investigatory efforts wherever possible.”

The company, of which Lee Mueller is co-member manager and employee, sent out a statement Wednesday afternoon, noting the owners and managers were "deeply distressed by recent events."

"They have remained in ongoing contact with their dedicated personnel and apprised of the situation," said Lawrence Kogan, a lawyer for Mueller. "Their primary concern all along has been the safety and welfare of the many residents of the Gladwin and Midland County communities."

The Edenville Dam, located at the border of Midland and Gladwin counties, failed late Tuesday afternoon and caused water to flow over and around a second dam, the Sanford Dam, downstream in the Tittabawassee River.

A man walks toward the Edenville Dam at Wixom Lake in Beaverton after the levees broke.

In a Wednesday letter to Mueller, the commission told Mueller of Las Vegas to fully lower the reservoirs behind Sanford, Smallwood and Secord dams as waters recede and perform a safety inspection within three days on the dams.

The independent investigation ordered by the commission is to include a review operations before, during and after the event; field investigations; and a review of documented protocol, the letter said.

None of the team members hired to conduct the investigation can have worked on prior Boyce Hydro projects. The resumes of each team member must be submitted to the commission by May 27.

Midland City Manager Brad Kaye said the Sanford Dam is overflowing, but "it's not entirely clear what the structure" is like underneath.

"We don't know quite frankly whether the entire structure is gone or just parts of it is gone," Kaye said.

Whitmer said Wednesday the state planned to ask the Federal Emergency Management Agency for aid in Midland. The state also is reviewing "every potential legal recourse we have" to determine responsibility for the failed dams and resulting flooding, Whitmer said. 

FERC pulled Edenville's power generation license in 2018 due to violations and consistent concerns that the dam would not be able to withstand a significant flood.