LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — A federal court on Friday granted a May 25 motion for summary judgment by the state of Michigan against the former owners of the Edenville Dam near Midland, which failed in May 2020 and forced the evacuation of thousands of residents, the Michigan Department of Attorney General said Friday.
On May 19, 2020, the east embankment off the Edenville Dam, near Midland, failed, sending a surge of water downstream that caused widespread flooding and forced the evacuation of thousands of people from surrounding communities. The motion summary judgment, granted Friday by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, was part of the state’s ongoing enforcement action against the former owners of the dam.
According to the AG, the state had uncovered key facts about the dam’s history that were previously unknown to the public. In 2010, Boyce Hydro determined that the east embankment of the Edenville Dam could fail if Wixom Lake were to rise too high. According to the AG, Boyce Hydro could have fixed the defect and had made preliminary plans to do so, but never followed through.
The precise part of the embankment that Boyce Hydro had predicted would fail, did ultimately fail in 2020. Boyce Hydro never reported the defect to the state of Michigan, though it had been legally required to do so. Also, Boyce Hydro’s former dam safety engineer and chief operator resigned in protest in May 2017 because Lee Mueller, who had been managing Boyce Hydro from his home in Las Vegas, had routinely neglected basic dam safety.
According to a previous news release from the AG, the chief operator had testified that Mueller had said, “I’m not in the hydro business…I’m in the moneymaking business.”
The federal court in granting the motion for summary judgment mentioned that the former dam owners did not dispute the state’s evidence. The court wrote that Boyce Hydro had never implemented a planned cutoff wall that likely would have prevented the dam’s failure.
“The State demonstrated dam ownership disregarded threats to the safety and integrity of the dam, and absolutely was responsible for its failure, so much so they had no defense whatsoever,” said Michigan AG Dana Nessel in Friday’s statement.
The state now intends to seek a money judgment against Mueller personally, the AG said.