The Stream, September 15, 2021: Reason For Dam Failure in Michigan ‘Rare, But Not Unprecedented,’ Report Says


  • A new report discovers the rare reason the Edenville Dam in Midland, Michigan, collapsed last year.
  • The National Trust in England begins work on a new wetland designed to alleviate flooding from the Tamar Estuary.
  • Hurricane Nicholas quickly downgrades to a tropical storm in Texas, but still threatens to flood many areas of the S. Deep South.
  • A natural gas company in Canada says they won’t generate enough electricity due to drought this summer.

An NPR investigation finds homes sold by the U.S. Department of Housing and Development (HUD) are disproportionately located in flood-prone areas.

“These homes are in really vulnerable areas, and it puts households at risk.” – Laurie Schoeman, resilience director for the national housing nonprofit Enterprise Community Partners. An investigation by NPR found that homes sold by HUD are disproportionately located in flood-prone places. More so, the investigation found that the agency does not fully disclose the potential costs and dangers of living in hazardous areas. In most cases, neighborhoods where HUD sold homes have lower median household incomes that areas where HUD did not sell homes.

  • Why it matters: The impacts of flooding, in many places, are dependent on your zip code. In Chicago, leaders have poured billions into ambitious programs to keep water away from roads and buildings. But urban flooding continues — overwhelmingly in communities of color. In the state of Michigan, wealthier residents living in highly desirable coastal areas can afford to spend large sums of money to adapt to the changing climate. Financially struggling families, on the other hand, are typically unaware of flood risks. And even if they are, they usually don’t have the money to respond adequately.


In Case You Missed It:  

HotSpots H2O: ‘Global Indigenous Agenda’ Calls for Water, Land, and Resource Governance at 2021 IUCN World Conference — Indigenous activists and organizations from around the world met virtually this week for the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Zoom-based World Conservation Congress.

What’s Up With Water — September 13, 2021 — This week’s episode covers regulators in the UK who have temporarily given water utilities permission to treat wastewater to a lower standard, a government program to bring running water to more high-poverty areas in India, and an unprecedented joint statement from over 200 medical journals warning that the largest threat to global public health is climate change.

New Report Reveals Reason For Dam Collapse in Michigan Last Year

An independent investigation into last year’s Edenville Dam failure in Midland, Michigan, found that as the reservoir filled to a record high, the dam’s loose-sand embankment became waterlogged, causing it to liquify and collapse under the pressure of the water backed up behind it. Bridge Michigan reports that investigators found that the reason for the dam’s collapse was “rare, but not unprecedented,” and one that dam safety experts had only seen as a threat during earthquakes until now. The report revealed several clues into how shoddy construction, ignored warnings and intense rainfall all combined to create the circumstances around the dam’s failure.

  • Why it matters: The average age of the country’s dam fleet is 57 years, according to the National Inventory of Dams, a database run by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In Michigan, the average is a bit older: 74 years, Circle of Blue reported last year. Many dams are at retirement age and their upkeep is generally neglected or given cursory attention, said Upmanu Lall, a professor of engineering and director of the Columbia Water Center. So it is with so many of the country’s roadways, power stations, and water delivery systems. The assets of yesterday have become the debts of the present — and for dams, those debts are a growing liability.



In hopes of attracting new types wildlife and alleviate flooding from the Tamar Estuary, a 15-meter (50-foot) breach has been made in the banks of England’s River Tamar to create a new wetland habitat in Cornwall. BBC reports that the plan for the habitat was first announced as part of a £250,000 scheme funded by the National Trust and the Environment Agency.


Hurricane Nicholas hit made landfall early Tuesday morning on the eastern part of the Matagorda Peninsula in Texas before quickly downgrading to a tropical storm. The Associated Press that the storm knocked out power to a half-million homes and businesses and brought with it just over a foot (30.5 centimeters) of rain on areas of Texas hit hard by Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Forecasters say the storm could bring life-threatening floods across the South over the coming days, including areas that were struck by Hurricane Ida late last month.


Manitoba Hydro, a natural gas company in Canada, said it doesn’t expect to generate enough electricity this winter to meet its export budget, thanks to dry conditions over the last several months across the Lake Winnipeg watershed. CBC reports that the government-owned organization is trying to hold back as much water as possible to ensure Manitoba residents have enough electricity this winter.

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