Dam Breach Warning Signs

While most wouldn’t have expected the dams to fail, there have been many warnings about its fate. For years, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has warned about Edenville Dam’s noncompliance with their standards. In fact, according to MLive, there were recorded capacity issues at the dam all the way back in the late 1990s.

In 2018 Boyce Hydro Power, the company that owns and operates the Edenville Dam, had its federal license revoked. This was because of alleged “years of noncompliance and a failure to meet safety standards.” The company has been called “chronically non-compliant.”

The main concern was spillways: FERC spokesperson Celeste Miller told MLive recently that the revocation order was issued because “Boyce Hydro [had] failed to increase the project’s spillway capacity to safely pass flood flows, [and failed] to comply with its license.” The spillway was only designed to withstand “approximately 50 percent” of potential flood incidents.

If there were a natural disaster, the dam may fail, not meeting the “probable maximum flood guideline,” FERC said.

Other alleged violations of FERC guidelines over the years included: “unauthorized repairs, unauthorized earth moving, failure to file proper safety plans, failure to provide recreational areas and public access, failure to secure necessary property rights and failure to comply with water quality orders.”

In 2018 Boyce Hydro has argued that the “odds of a ‘probable maximum flood’ event occurring in the next 5 to 10 years [was] 5 to 10 in one million,” according to federal records.

The lack of spillway capacity — the FERC’s main worry — played a major role in the ultimate dam failures in the Midland region.