Report says Michigan 2020 dam failures were ‘preventable’

Report says Michigan 2020 dam failures were ‘preventable’

TRAVERSE City, Mich. – The failure of two Michigan dams that forced evacuation of 10,000 men and women and wrecked 150 homes was “foreseeable and preventable,” ensuing from faults and miscalculations about nearly a century, an pro panel explained Wednesday.

The Edenville Dam on the Tittabawassee River in central Michigan collapsed Could 19, 2020, releasing a torrent that overtopped the downstream Sanford Dam and flooded the city of Midland. Damages exceeded $200 million.

In a 502-webpage report, a forensic engineering team appointed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission explained the Edenville Dam as flawed from the outset. Style and development shortcomings in the 1920s had been followed by several years of working and routine maintenance deficiencies that last but not least doomed the framework under strain from the rain-swollen river.


Inspite of the “natural desire” to point fingers at a single perpetrator, “the failure cannot reasonably by attributed to any a single particular person, team, or group,” the report said.

“Instead, it was the all round program for financing, creating, constructing, running, analyzing and upgrading” the dams, “involving a lot of functions in the course of the just about 100 a long time of venture record, which fell short in guaranteeing a risk-free dam at the Edenville site.”

The review group was led by John W. France, a 45-yr dam security advisor who has served on engineering assessment boards for federal and state companies.

The Edenville and Sanford were being amid 4 privately owned dams designed about the identical time on the approximately 72-mile-long (116.5 kilometers-long) river, producing a series of reservoirs. The Tittabawassee flows earlier Midland, about 130 miles north of Detroit, and intersects with the Saginaw River, which empties into Lake Huron.


Every of the dams had earthen embankments, gated concrete spillways and buildings for hydropower generation, despite the fact that Edenville’s federal hydro license experienced been revoked in 2018.

During its heritage, “incorrect conclusions were being drawn about the steadiness of the Edenville Dam embankments and the potential of the spillways,” the report said.

“The potential for a non-intense rainfall function to outcome in the lake climbing by a number of feet to in the vicinity of the embankment crest was not identified, and judgments and decisions were being designed that inevitably contributed to the failure or to not avoiding the failure.”

The collapse adopted a few days of hefty rain. As opposed to at the other dams, Edenville’s gates were not lifted large plenty of to let ample stream above the spillway from its reservoir, referred to as Wixom Lake. When the dam gave way, the reservoir was about 5.5 toes (1.67 meters) above its typical degree.

The report discounted overtopping or inside erosion as causes of the failure, pointing instead to “static liquefaction,” which it describes as “a sudden loss of soil strength” in saturated, loose sands contained in a part of the embankment.


Use of these kinds of sands “significantly deviated from the design options and building specs,” the report stated.

In some spots, including the one that unsuccessful, embankments were built with steep downstream slopes that did not fulfill modern day basic safety necessities, it stated. Occasional security analyses through the 90-as well as several years of operation did not catch the flaws, which could have been fastened.

Dam engineers also failed to sufficiently take into account most likely substantial runoff and lake stages, the report said, while spillway capacity was not upgraded since the hydropower operations did not deliver the thousands and thousands of bucks wanted to pay for it.

“The dam failures were being foreseeable and preventable,” it said.

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