The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a license to generate electric power to the Edenville Dam in October 1998. In June 2004, the Edenville Dam and its associated 4.8 MW hydroelectric generation facility were acquired by Synex Michigan from Wolverine Power Corporation. Boyce purchased Synex in March 2006 and changed the company’s name to Boyce Hydro Power in July 2007.
As part of any dam’s operating requirements, FERC mandates minimum maintenance and safety requirements. But a February 2018 FERC report revoking the operating license for the Edenville Dam describes “a long history of non-compliance with” their license conditions under the Federal Power Act and FERC regulations.
Seven primary concerns were listed in the FERC report, charging that Boyce Hydro:
- Did not expand spillway capacity to ensure the dam could handle a “probable maximum flood,” or PMF;[*]
- Carried out unauthorized dam repairs;
- Carried out unauthorized earth moving;
- Did not file an “adequate Public Safety Plan;”
- “Unduly restricted public access” and did not “construct approved recreation facilities;”
- Failed to “acquire and document all necessary project private property rights;”
- Did not comply with the FERC order that approved the company’s Water Quality Monitoring Plan.
The order says the existing spillway capacity of the dam was sufficient to handle, at most, 50% of the PMF, noting “[f]ailure of the Edenville dam could result in the loss of human life and the destruction of property and infrastructure.” Boyce Hydro was granted two extensions in 2017 but had failed to comply with these requirements.[†] The company did not seek to have their compliance order reconsidered and admitted to having not complied with the order.
A just-released inspection report, commissioned by the Four Lakes Task Force and completed by the Saginaw-based engineering and surveying firm, Spicer Group, Inc., largely agrees with the FERC assessment, but adds that the dam did not even meet the state’s
50% PMF requirement. It reiterates that FERC regulations required Edenville Dam to pass “the full PMF,” which was calculated as 61,296 cubic feet per second.
FERC had ordered Bruce Hydro to upgrade to meet the federal standard of full PMF, but the company repeatedly argued the $8 million price tag to build additional spillway capacity was beyond its financial means. The company attempted to get local residents to pay a portion of the costs but was rebuffed.
Following the revocation of the facility’s federal license, jurisdiction for the dam transferred to the state of Michigan, specifically the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy and the Department of Natural Resources.
[*]Probable maximum flood is defined by FERC as, “The flood that may be expected theoretically from the most severe combination of critical meteorologic conditions that usually produce the PMP [probable maximum precipitation] and critical hydrologic conditions that are reasonably possible in the drainage basin under study.” See: “Determination of the Probable Maximum Flood” (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Sep. 2001), https://perma.cc/ZNZ9-DUYT.
[†]The order notes they appeared to have acquired and documented the required property rights and had met portions of the Water Quality Monitoring Plan. However, local reports indicate that the owner of Boyce Hydro had a rocky relationship with property owners in the area due to his attempts to pass the costs of dam maintenance, property taxes, and other business expenses on to residents. See: Andrew Dodson, “Sanford Lake Dam Owner Says He’s Not Paying for $83,000 Repair Project” (MLive Media Group, Jan. 2019), https://perma.cc/B63R-TFT6.