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Should we be worried about dam collapses in Mid-Michigan?

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Posted at 5:58 AM, May 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-22 06:19:55-04

LANSING, Mich. — There are 39 dams scattered between Clinton, Eaton, Ingham and Jackson counties, including the Moores Park Dam on the Grand River.

Even though it's catergorized as "High Risk," its owners say we shouldn't have anything to worry about.

"If a dam would fail, the first priority is human safety, second is property damage, and we take that very serious," said Dick Peffley, General Manager of the Lansing Board of Water and Light, which owns the Moores Park Dam, as well as the North Lansing Dam just downriver.

They're listed as high risk and significant risk, respectively, but Peffley says that doesn't mean they'll collapse at any minute.

"It's not a high risk of failure. If it should fail...It's a high risk."

"Right. Those are very well-maintained dams," added BWL General Counsel Mark Matus.

According to the City of Lansing Emergency Management, close to 50 structures would be impacted if the Moores Park Dam collapsed.

BWL officials tell Fox 47 they regularly meet with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

"We do a tabletop exercise, run scenarios on partial failure, what buildings would be affected," said Peffley.

The same is done over in Eaton County; Emergency Management also works with FERC.

"A lot of different efforts go into that, that's why we do a lot of pre-planning to make sure that we're all on the same page in the event that something does happen," said Ryan Wilkinson with Eaton County Emergency Management.

On the off chance the Moores Park Dam does collapse, people in the water's path will be the first to know.

"It will sound a very loud alarm that we test annually," said Matus.

"We have a plan that's in place for all scenarios," said Peffley.

National outlook based on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers data:

The entire database can be found here: https://bit.ly/3bOqQnP

91,457 dams with an average age of 57 years old

15,491 dams have high hazard potential (loss of human life likely if dam fails)
11,333 dams have significant hazard potential (no probable loss of human life but can cause economic loss, damage, disruption of lifeline facilities, or impact other concerns)
59,678 dams have low hazard potential
4,806 dams have undetermined hazard potential

Michigan outlook based on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers data:

1,059 dams with an average age of 74 years old
172 dams have high hazard potential
151 with significant hazard potential
722 with low hazard potential
14 undetermined

Midland County info based on the data:

6 total dams with an average age of 53 years old
4 dams with high hazard potential (2 of the 4 are ones that failed this week – Edenville and Sanford dams)
2 with low hazard potential

Mid-Michigan outlook based on the data:

Eaton County

10 dams with an average age of 62 years old
2 dams with high hazard potential (Carrier Creek, Myers-Henderson Detention Pond)
8 dams with low hazard potential

Ingham County

5 dams with an average age of 70 years old
1 with high hazard potential (Moores Park Dam)
1 with significant hazard potential (North Lansing Dam)
3 with low hazard potential

Jackson County

19 dams with an average age of 103 years old
1 with high hazard potential (Brooklyn Dam)
4 with significant hazard potential (Michigan Center Dam, Horton Dam, Mirror Lake Dam, Liberty Dam)
14 with low hazard potential

Clinton County

5 dams with an average age of 79 years old
2 with significant hazard potential (Sleepy Hollow Dam, Lake Geneva Dam)
3 with low hazard potential

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