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$15M penalty assessed for Michigan hydro project violations

April 15, 2021 GMT

MIDLAND, Mich. (AP) — A federal agency Thursday assessed a $15 million civil penalty against a company for safety violations at three Michigan hydroelectric projects, including a dam that collapsed last year and contributed to flooding that forced evacuation of about 10,000 people.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission took the action against Boyce Hydro Power LLC, which filed for bankruptcy protection amid numerous lawsuits after its Edenville and Sanford dams failed in May 2020 during steady rain.

The failure drained man-made Wixom Lake on the Tittabawassee River, which then overwhelmed the Sanford dam about 140 miles (225 kilometers) north of Detroit. The village of Sanford and part Midland were flooded, damaging roads and destroying numerous homes.

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The federal agency said its penalty resulted from violations at three Boyce Hydro Power projects: the Sanford, Secord and Smallwood.

“Today’s decision sends a clear message to all licensees of FERC-jurisdictional hydroelectric projects: It is imperative that they comply with the safety requirements of their licenses,” FERC Chairman Rich Glick said.

The commission said that under Boyce Hydro’s liquidation plan, the penalty won’t be paid until after flood victims are compensated.