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Former Midland dams owner faces millions in federal fines

TRC Engineers Michigan

Federal regulators have announced fines against the company that owned the Midland-area dams that failed last year and set off floods that forced thousands of people to evacuate their homes.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which oversees the nation’s hydroelectric dams, fined Boyce Hydro Power $15 million for a series of failures in dam safety that the commission said contributed to the breaches.

The company did not adequately investigate what caused the dams to fail, file inspection reports of its dams, or show any evidence that it had removed debris that was jeopardizing the dams’ integrity, the government said.

An attorney for Boyce Hydro Power did not immediately respond to questions from WCMU News.

But the chair of the regulatory commission said the government might never get any of the money it’s levied in fines against the company.

Boyce Hydro Power is in bankruptcy proceedings, and Richard Glick, the commission’s chair, said the federal government is at the back of the line for payment. He said the thousands of people who lost property in the flooding should get first access to any payout from the company.

“That probably means we won’t be able to recover much, if anything,” Glick said.

Even if the government doesn’t get any money from Boyce, Glick said the fine is a signal to other companies.

“Licensees need to understand that the commission takes our responsibility over dam safety seriously, and there will be consequences should licensing requirements be ignored,” he said.

Brett joined WCMU in February, 2021, as a general assignment reporter. He was previously the health reporter at WXXI Public Broadcasting in Rochester, N.Y., and has filed stories for National Public Radio, IEEE Spectrum, The Village Voice and other outlets.
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