FEMA approves request for federal aid for Gladwin County following historic flooding

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Gladwin County will get federal emergency aid in response to devastating flooding that hit mid-Michigan, the state said Friday.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency approved the request to add Gladwin County to the federal emergency declaration, which will provide additional resources to respond to a 500-year flooding event caused by failures in century-old dams. 

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

The initial approval is limited to certain direct assistance from federal agencies, but could be expanded as the state and FEMA complete a damage assessment. 

“After these floods devastated livelihoods of families across Gladwin county, I am glad the federal government has stepped up to help those impacted,” Gov.Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement on Friday.

“I look forward to continuing to work with FEMA and the federal government to help Michigan families rebuild after this natural disaster.” 

A storm system moved through Michigan beginning May 16, resulting in 6 to 8 inches of rain over a 48-hour period. In response to the rainfall and localized flooding, Gladwin and Midland counties each declared a local state of emergency, as did Saginaw and Arenac counties. 

The Edenville Dam and the Sanford Dam were breached May 19, prompting the evacuation of more than 10,000 Midland County residents. 

The same day, Whitmer declared a state of emergency for the city and county of Midland, and later added Arenac, Gladwin, losco and Saginaw counties.

The governor’s state of emergency ensures law enforcement and shelter support, road repair assistance as well as search and rescue support to the impacted areas. 

The Edenville, Sanford, Smallwood and Secord dams on the Tittabawassee River are operated by Boyce Hydro.

The dam failures follow years of federal concern over the Edenville Dam's inadequate spillway capacity, among other deficiencies, which eventually led to the revocation of the dam's power license. Oversight then transferred to the state.