In a significant development in the aftermath of the Edenville Dam collapse of 2020, a Michigan appeals court has given the green light for property owners to pursue lawsuits against the state. The dam's failure, after several days of heavy rain, led to catastrophic flooding, resulting in the destruction of the downstream Sanford Dam and inundating the city of Midland. The disaster displaced thousands of residents and caused the demolition of 150 homes.
The Fallout of the Edenville Dam Collapse
The former owner of the Edenville Dam, Lee Mueller, has been hit with an order by a U.S. District Judge to pay approximately $120 million for environmental damages, a fallout of the dam's collapse. These damages encompass harm caused to fisheries and the ecosystem, particularly impacting freshwater mussels. Mueller, who has since filed for bankruptcy protection in Nevada, disputes the daunting figure, deeming it an 'absurdity.'
Contentions and Causes
While Mueller attributes the dam's failure to a century-old construction defect, the state points fingers at poor maintenance and lack of necessary repairs. The intricate blame game around the dam's collapse was further complicated by a 2022 report by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The report found the dam's failure as 'foreseeable and preventable,' yet did not place the blame on any single entity.
State's Legal Hurdles
In addition to the lawsuit from Mueller, the state finds itself in legal crosshairs with property owners who suffered due to the flooding. They contend that the state's regulatory decisions, such as the setting of higher water levels, were contributing factors to the disaster. As the murky waters of legal and financial responsibility continue to roil, the victims of the flood hold their breath, caught in the crossfire of a multi-faceted dispute.