Dams in state badly in need of repair, replacement

Several weeks ago, an Associated Press report that bridges in the state of Michigan that are in difficult condition made headlines.

Now, it’s dams.

In an in depth story for Sunday’s editions, The Detroit Free Press reported that dams scattered all over the Michigan map are in varying states of decay and/or disrepair. A number are in the Upper Peninsula. One, the Lake Sally Dam on the Ely Creek in Marquette County, is rated as just fair.

The Free Press story reported that the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality oversees 88 potential high-hazard dams in the state – and all but six of them are approaching or past 50 years old, the average engineered lifespan for a dam.

The Free Press stated that overall, more than 90 percent of Michigan’s nearly 2,600 dams will reach or exceed their design life by 2020, the American Society of Civil Engineers stated in a report giving Michigan a D grade on the condition of its dams. Many are privately owned.

The Free Press story quoted a 2007 study on the growing crisis of aging dams in Michigan, prepared by Public Sector Consultants and Prein and Newhof for the Michigan Municipal League Foundation, said Michigan has nearly 120 dams in need of an estimated $50 million to address their repair or removal.

“It’s infrastructure in our country today, not just dams. Bridges, highways. That’s a huge, ticking time bomb in my mind for the entire country,” Byron Lane, chief of dam safety at the Department of Environmental Quality, said in the Free Press story.

When the states’s or nation’s crumbling infrastructure is discussed, the conversation very quickly turns to money, specifically how much and who pays.

The Mining Journal advocates a statewide dialogue on those very questions and we think that should be done sooner than later.