9 in 10 Michigan dams are at or near the end of their functional life

More than 90 percent of Michigan’s 2,581 dams will reach or exceed their design life by 2020 (Source: American Society of Civil Engineers-Michigan “Michigan Infrastructure Report Card,” 2013).

On May 14, 2003, the Silver Lake Dam near the headwaters of the Dead River north of Marquette failed, releasing 9 billion gallons of water toward the City of Marquette. No one was killed, but the waters forced 1,800 people to evacuate and caused more than $100 million in damages to roads, bridges, and other property.

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Many aging dams “pose safety hazards”

The ASCEMI infrastructure report card presents records from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Dam Safety Unit showing that:

  1. Ninety-three percent of Michigan’s dams will have reached their design life of 50 years by 2020
  2. 166 of the dams built before 1900 have already passed this design life by a factor of two

“Many dams are abandoned, no longer serve any useful purpose and pose safety hazards to downstream residents,” the ASCEMI report card says. “No funding is currently available in Michigan to help dam owners repair, rehabilitate or remove aging dams.”

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