2 in 3 Michigan dams are at or near the end of their functional life

More than two-thirds of Michigan’s 2,581 dams will reach or exceed their design life by 2020 (Source: American Society of Civil Engineers-Michigan “2018 Report Card for Michigan’s Infrastructure”).

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.


Many aging dams “pose safety hazards”

The ASCE-MI 2018 Report Card presents records from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Dam Safety Unit showing that:

  1. In the next five years, about 80 percent of Michigan’s dams will be over 50 years old.
  2. Additionally, 271 of Michigan’s dams were built prior to 1900, and have more than twice exceeded their typical 50-year design life.
  3. Michigan has averaged about two dam failures per year

“As Michigan’s dams continue to age, the need for state or federal funding, or funding from other sources, will increase,” the ASCE-MI 2018 Report Card says. “The rate at which Michigan’s aging dam infrastructure is degrading has generated financial demands that far exceed the available funding to repair or remove these dams.”

 According to the 21st Century Infrastructure Commission Report, $225 million is needed in additional state funding over the next 20 years to manage our aging dams in Michigan.