The following is an excerpt from a press release of the Office of the Attorney General – June 9, 2020
Michigan regulatory agencies filed a lawsuit seeking compensation, civil fines, and the cleanup and restoration of damages caused by Boyce Hydro’s negligence in the failure of the Edenville and Sanford dams last month. The suit was filed by the Department of Attorney General on behalf of the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
The eight-count suit will be followed by a motion to compel Boyce to immediately comply with a state order to fully inspect potentially dangerous cracks and erosion in a damaged portion of the Edenville Dam that is still standing to determine what steps must be taken to protect public safety. It also compels Boyce to repair damages to Michigan’s natural resources, clean up discharges of debris and hazardous materials caused by the dam failures, and pay civil fines and damages related to the disaster.
Federal regulators identified deficiencies at the dam as early as 1993. Those deficiencies were well known to Boyce at the time they purchased the dam in 2004. Boyce repeatedly failed to comply with orders by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to upgrade the dam through 2018, when the Commission revoked the company’s permit to generate hydroelectric power.
The transfer of the dam to the Four Lakes Task Force was imminent when the failure occurred, and—as the dam owners’ resistance to FERC demonstrates—was a much faster path to improve safety than attempting to directly compel the private owners through regulatory means to undertake the repairs. That process could have taken close to a decade to complete, but the Task Force’s construction schedule was already underway at the time the dam failed. The state was providing technical assistance and a $5 million grant to assist in the repairs and the transfer of ownership to the Task Force.
Damage to lives, property, and the natural resources of the state are extensive, and are still being tallied. But there is clearly enough evidence even at this early stage of the aftermath that Boyce is responsible for the catastrophe.