Sanford and Edenville Residents Want Movement in Dam Failure Lawsuits

Three years after the failure of two dams led to devastating flooding in Midland County, impacted residents are still waiting on lawsuits to pay off.

Friday marks three years since the failures of the Edenville and Sanford Dams, and according to Attorney Ven Johnson, who represents around 300 people who were affected, the State of Michigan has been pushing back every step of the way.

“We’d normally have deposition after deposition and all sorts of things that we could show you that documents what the state did in order to completely ignore a problem that they knew for years was ‘not if, but when,'” said Johnson. “But we have nothing to show for it because of governmental immunity.”

In 2021, a judge ruled that governmental immunity did not apply to many of the lawsuits. Johnson says the state’s appeal of that decision has only delayed what he believes to be an inevitable jury trial. In the meantime, Johnson says residents and business owners continue to suffer, with many of them still paying mortgages on buildings that were swept away by the flood waters.

“We’re not asking for the world. We just want to get back whole. We didn’t make this mess. People knew this was going to happen,” said Sanford Resident Carl Hamann. “We had a major rain event and major issues [in] 2011, 2014, 2017, and 2020 the dams failed.”