Rep. Annette Glenn, R-Midland is calling for an independent investigation into the failure of the Edenville and Sanford dams, which resulted in severe flooding and devastating damage in Midland and surrounding counties. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has directed the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, which oversees the dams, to conduct the investigation.
Glenn’s office said in 2018, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission pulled the operator’s license for the Edenville Dam, owned by Boyce Hydro, after the company failed to comply with regulatory requests for upgrades to reduce the risk of failure. Oversight of the dam was then turned over to the state, which approved its continued operation but sued the operator for threatening freshwater clams by lowering water levels behind the dam.
“Was protecting mollusks more important than protecting the people of Midland?” Glenn asked. “And snails more important than the people of Sanford? That’s a question only an independent investigator can be trusted to investigate and answer.”
Whitmer was asked why she didn’t appoint an independent investigator during a news conference Wednesday in Sanford. She said she understood the point of the question, acknowledged the “usual wisdom” in having an independent investigator, but said the investigation has to be done by an entity with technical expertise, and “there are very few that have the technical expertise that’s really needed to be able to properly do this investigation.”
Glenn, who serves as vice chair of the House Appropriations subcommittee that sets the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy’s budget, said she believes the governor, upon further reflection, will agree that “flood victims deserve a third-party, independent investigation to ensure a fair and just conclusion for the thousands of families who’ve been devastated.”
“We didn’t trust the state Department of Environmental Quality to investigate its own mishandling of the Flint water crisis,” Glenn said, “and after being in a lot of wet, mud-filled basements this week, I know it doesn’t feel quite right to ask one of our own executive branch agencies to investigate whether the state shares any culpability for these devastating failures. This situation clearly warrants an independent investigation.”
Glenn said there are other regulatory bodies or individuals with the necessary technical expertise to conduct an investigation.
“Words cannot fully describe how horrendous this has been for families in our community,” Glenn said. “Thousands of our neighbors and friends who had to evacuate their homes and small businesses returned only to find unbelievable devastation. I’m confident we’ll get through these trying times and be stronger for what we have rebuilt together. But we must make sure those responsible are held accountable.”