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Attorney General Cited ‘Mussels’ 38 Times, ‘Flood’ Once In Suit Over Dam That Failed

Suit filed 19 days before flood, for lowering waters behind dam

Nineteen days before the Edenville and Sanford dams collapsed in Midland County, flooding more than 2,500 structures and causing more than $200 million in damages, Michigan’s Attorney General filed a lawsuit.

The suit filed April 30 by Attorney General Dana Nessel against Boyce Hydro Power used the term “mussel” or “mussels” 38 times. The term “flood” or “flooding” appeared just once, as a potential consequence of how having fewer mussels could damage wetlands that help prevent floods.

The lawsuit claims that the owner of the dams had dramatically lowered the water level in Wixom Lake, which “caus[ed] the death of thousands if not millions of freshwater mussels,” and that “the State owns the freshwater mussels.”

But higher water levels mixed with heavy rains that fell in mid-Michigan just prior to the flood. Together, they caused the Edenville and Sanford Dams in Midland and Gladwin counties to fail, flooding the area and forcing the evacuation of 11,000 residents.

Editor's note: This article was edited after publication.