10 December 2023

Michigan Dam Restoration

I haven't had an infrastructure post in quite some time. Since there is quite a bit of infrastructure being rebuilt and/or upgraded in central Michigan, it seems like the time to have one.

On 19 May 2020, at 5:46 p.m Edenville dam in central Michigan failed during heavy rains. The resulting flood waters overtopped Sanford Dam, which subsequently failed. Two other dams in the area, Secord and Smallwood dams, also had minor failures, but the Edenville and Sanford dam failures did tremendous damage. There were no deaths or major injuries reported, but there was substantial property damage.

Previous posts on that incident include the following. The Failure of Edenville Dam and the Cascade Failure of Sanford Dam, which features Practical Engineering video going over what happened on the day in question. The 2nd post is 2020 Michigan Dam Failures: Forensic Report, that links to, and highlights, some aspect of that report.

Since 2020, repairs and upgrades to the dams have begun. I tripped over this story because the one-time owner of the Edenville dam, Mueller and Boyce Hydro, has been ordered to pay $199.8 million in penalties. That company went bankrupt after the dam failure, but whatever is left will go to the state, to "mitigate enviornmental impacts." Which I think means help pay for the dam replacement/upgrades.

What follows are a few videos from Jordan Mowbray, a resident of the area, who is documenting the restoration of the Four Lakes dams. The dams are being upgraded/reinforced with things like removing old hydroelectric powerhouses, and the construction of emergency spillways to protect the dams in the event of future major rainstorms to avoid the problems seen in 2020.

First up is HUGE TRENCHER! 🔥 [Soil-Concrete-Bentonite] Cutoff Wall Install at Edenville Dam! #construction #dam. (19 minutes) Installing a cutoff wall down the middle of the embankment will improve the quality of the dam and bring it up to modern safety standards.

Next we have Sanford Dam Flooding Today! - The Lakebed is Starting to REFILL! - Drone - Dam Collapse, (12 minutes) which shows the repair progress as of April 2023.

Secord dam was either damaged during the incident in 2020, or subsequent inspections revealed repairs that needed to be done immediately. Most of the information I've seen has been about Edenville and Sanford, and the catastrophic failure. In any event some work is being done on Secord Dam. An emergency spillway is being added, together with concrete reinforcement of the dam, and the old hydroelectric power station is being removed. The video on that is Secord Dam EMERGENCY SPILLWAY Progress! - Drone - Dam Collapse. (24 minutes)

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