Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has filed a lawsuit against Boyce Hydro LLC, the private owner of the failed Edenville Dam.
The Edenville and Sanford dams, both located along the Tittabawassee River near Midland, collapsed in May amidst record-setting rainfall. The ensuing floodwaters wrought extensive damage in downstream communities, with losses estimated around $175 million.
In announcing the lawsuit, Nessel accused Boyce Hydro of negligence, saying the company is directly responsible for the Edenville Dam’s collapse.
“We know the owners of the dam, with their long history of neglect, are responsible for the dam’s failure,” Nessel said.
Nessel, adds the Detroit Free Press, also pushed back against claims made by Boyce Hydro—claims that the state played an integral role in the dam’s failure by refusing to provide the company with financial aid, and pressuring it to maintain the dam reservoir at an unsafe level.
Nessel, instead, insisted that Boyce has made numerous “misstatements” in an effort to divert blame for the disaster onto state regulators.
The state, says MLive.com, was forced to assume control of the dam in 2018, after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission revoked the Edenville Dam’s license—in large part because Boyce did not meet federal standards for flood prevention. In fact, Boyce Hydro was cited numerous times for its lack of adequate preparedness, with tests showing the dam could not handle enough water to prevent failure during very heavy rainfall.
“I’ve been disheartened by recent accounts of the Edenville Dam failure that are factually inaccurate, and that have allowed Boyce Hydro Power LLC, and other LLCs owned and controlled by Lee Mueller, to avoid what should have been swift, sweeping and universal condemnation after years of its grossly negligent and defiant actions,” Nessel said.
“Boyce has a well-documented record of repeatedly and intentionally ignoring state and federal safety regulations,” she added. “When Boyce’s actions resulted in the very harm that these regulators sought to prevent, Boyce then had the audacity to blame these individuals for its own misdeeds.”
Nessel suggested that Boyce’s narrative has been seized upon by opponents of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who have parroted Boyce’s claims that the state is at fault for the failure.
Boyce’s narrative, for instance, accuses Michigan of forcing the company to maintain high water levels to preserve endangered freshwater mussels and to facilitate recreational boating. But the state Attorney General’s Office and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources both deny Boyce’s claims.
“Boyce themselves sought, and received, permission to elevate Wixom Lake to its legally-required summer level this spring,” Nessel said. “The State did not demand that the level be raised. Boyce has not pointed to any evidence it ever raised the alarm that the summer level posed a risk, and it never took action to seek a lower summer level with [the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy] or the courts. Their after-the-fact attempt to rewrite history in the press is pure fantasy.”
Boyce Hydro is also facing a slew of lawsuits from area residents who lost homes, businesses, and property to the floods.