army corps of engineers
Why isn’t the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) involved? FLTF is engaged for support for flood studies, planning assistance and future project support. Based on USACE criteria, the four lakes are not eligible for funding.
This has been reviewed, researched by FLTF, and discussed with USACE. Out of the more than 90,000 dams in the NID, USACE operates only 700. USACE has “Study Authority and Project Authority to Assist in Construction” and bases its decision on “Benefit for Value.”
In other words, the investment in a dam must offset the cost of future property loss. It was determined in consultation and discussion that the study phase to determine if USACE could help with the dams would be a few years, and that funding would be unlikely. Therefore, FLTF pursued funding from the State of Michigan.
bottomland vegetation growth
Please read “Vegetation Growth Within the Drained Impoundment Areas (Bottomland) Frequently Asked Questions” provided by EGLE for answers to the below questions.
Are the plants growing on the bottomlands invasive species?
Can I use herbicides to get rid of the vegetation?
Do I need a permit to use herbicides to treat vegetation?
Can I cut trees or shrubs beginning to grow?
What about burning?
If vegetation is allowed to grow will it make it harder for the lakes to be eventually restored
community survey 2021
Please see the Community Survey FAQs for answers to the below questions.
Who should take the survey?
I lost the letter from PSC/I don’t have the survey code.
I never received a survey in the mail.
Are my survey responses anonymous?
I or someone I know is not physically able to complete the survey.
I do not have mail forwarding set up and I'm not living at my property.
How much did FLTF spend to acquire the Boyce Hydro properties? FTLF agreed to pay $1,576,000 that was distributed as follows:
How did you determine the purchase price? It wasn’t a purchase price, it was a settlement price, and it was the negotiated price we could pay to proceed as we weighed the cost to get control of the dam properties and be free of Boyce Hydro in time for winter and spring weather. We weighed this against what the bank and others were willing to settle for, given that this would have taken months to get through for all parties.
Did the purchase price fairly reflect the value of the properties? This is not about the value of the property, or fairness, but finding a way for the community to extract itself from the grips of Boyce Hydro so we can move forward.
When will the Task Force take over dam operations? We took control of the properties in December 2020. Engineering and Operations Teams are now in place. Initial site inspections are completed and repair projects underway. The focus is on managing the lakes through the winter and spring systems.
Who owns the properties? The purchase is on behalf of Midland and Gladwin counties and the properties will be deeded to them. FLTF is the agent on their behalf. Boyce still owns property in the counties that are not required for dam and lake operations.
What actual property did the agreement cover? The agreement includes spillways, bottomlands, levies, and all real property including additional Boyce properties.
How can I get help managing or stabilizing the erosion on my property? To get help managing erosion on your property you can make improvements on your own or, if the erosion is threatening a structure on your property, then you can apply for the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program.
I applied for the NRCS EWP program and have not heard back. It takes some time to hear from the NRCS so we ask that you be patient. Take a look at the NRCS EWP program site location map to see the status of ongoing projects and eligibility.
Why was I denied being part of the NRCS EWP program? Unfortunately, the NRCS does not provide specific reasons for each property they deem ineligible for the program. Based on our experiences so far, the most critical factor in determining if a property is eligible is if there is no structure on the property or the structures are not judged to be at risk from future erosion, the property is usually determined to be ineligible for an NRCS grant to repair erosion. If you disagree with the decision you can appeal the NRCS eligibility decision.
What should I do if I was denied help from the NRCS? If the NRCS said your property is ineligible for the EWP program you have two options:
1) APPEAL THE ELIGIBILITY DECISION
If you disagree with the eligibility determination by the NRCS, you may file an appeal asking NRCS to reconsider. Your appeal must include reasoning for how current or future erosion of your property would threaten your life or structures on the property.
2) DIY EROSION PROJECT
The NRCS provided plans for property owners to perform do-it-yourself (DIY) projects on your property. These projects are designed to...
What will erosion be like in the spring? Property owners should anticipate that snowmelt and spring rains will further impact erosion on properties. If you have not applied for the NRCS EWP program or performed any erosion stabilization measures on your own, we highly recommend doing so to prevent further loss of property.
What’s the status of my erosion project with the NRCS? Search your name, parcel ID or site number in this map to check on the status of your erosion project or application.
FEASIBLITY STUDY/FLOOD STUDY/PRELIMINARY DESIGn
What’s the purpose of the feasibility study?
The feasibility study (including engineering conceptual design and an environmental restoration plan) and flood studies are prerequisites for rebuilding the dams. They are critical for informing dam design and will be instrumental in our plans for lake restoration. There is risk that the independent investigation or the findings of these studies will require us to adjust our plans.
How will the study impact downstream flooding?
We can have lakes and improve the management of floods for those downstream and in the Four Lakes basin.
When will the study be ready for review by the public?
Studies will be available for review by May 2021.
Can I see a list of FLTF’s expenses, funding accounts, donors and/or expenditures? Yes, this information is shared with the public at our quarterly meetings and in our annual reports.
Do donations go towards the costs of dealing with lawsuits? No. Private donations are not used to pay legal fees for any class action lawsuit.
Do board members get paid? No. Board members do not receive compensation for their service on the board of directors.
What are the estimated costs for bringing back the lakes? Please look at slide 30 in our December meeting. The total planning level cost estimate is $338 million. This estimate is highly dependent on flood level prediction and modeling, safety, flood risk and environmental regulatory requirements, and the method of construction and managing lake levels during construction.
Please read “Flood Control and the Four Lakes” for answers to the below questions.
Were the dams built for flood control?
What is a flood control dam?
Do the Four Lakes dams help mitigate flooding at all?
Why has USACE said three of the four dams are primarily for flood control?
Can we do something about flooding?
Could the dams be used for flood control?
Could USACE still help pay for our dams?
What financial role do lake property owners have in restoring the lakes?
The catastrophic failure of the dams occurred with a private owner that was federally regulated to make improvements and repairs. This process failed. Our community should not be expected to take on the financial burden of a disaster it did not create.
What is the goal of Four Lakes Task Force?
The aim of all FLTF activity is to restore the lakes and their ecosystems, ensure the dams, are at current best practices, recover property values, revitalize the local economies, assure safety in the lakes and downstream, and bring back the recreational livelihood of the lakes.
FLTF has engaged the best experts for every aspect of planning, design, hydrology and hydraulics modeling, dam construction, environmental restoration, safety, and operations. We have advisors who provide input on the best and most appropriate path to recovery and restoration.
Public and worker safety are the number one priority. We will not increase the risk to the community or environmental impact for the sake of more quickly restoring water levels.
hydroelectric power generation
Is it feasible to have hydropower on the dams?
Given there are significant issues with Boyce Hydro, the hydropower licenses and FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission), the hydropower licenses have become a burden to our mission to restore our lakes. The Edenville Dam license was previously revoked. The Sanford Dam will need to be relicensed for hydro, and Secord and Smallwood dams require electrical upgrades to the power plants and interconnections. These conditions make it economically unfeasible to recover the investments needed to keep hydro and will slow the time it takes to rebuild the dams. There may still be a future for hydro, potentially beyond the 2030 timeframe after the dams are rebuilt, but not in transition.
How will relinquishing the hydropower licenses impact the path forward for restoring the lakes?
Without FLTF’s need for the hydropower licenses, we are requesting that FERC find a path to move regulatory authority to the State of Michigan, similar to what occurred on Edenville. The difference is we expect and are requesting an engaged, organized transition with all the agencies that have a collective vested interest in developing a plan to recover and restore the lakes, the environment, and the communities’ economic well-being.
What happens if FERC will not relinquish the hydropower license and revert control to the state?
Over the short-term, not much. FERC already has indicated it does not want to stand in the way of progress toward restoring the lakes. FLTF has the capability and funds to go forward but we know the process of transitioning the regulatory authority can be time-consuming. We are working hard to not have this impact our timelines.
See this FAQ video which answers when the water will be back.
When will Secord Lake be brought up? The estimated lake return date for Secord Lake is between 2022-2024.
When will Smallwood Lake be brought up? The estimated lake return date for Smallwood Lake is between 2022-2024.
When will Wixom Lake be brought up? The estimated lake return date for Wixom Lake is between 2025-2026.
When will Sanford Lake be brought up? The estimated lake return date for Sanford Lake is mid-2025.
Why did FLTF file motions to get dismissed from the class action lawsuits? FLTF works on behalf of the counties toward a sustainable solution for the community. Our actions have been the opposite of “deliberative indifference,” as some lawsuits stated. For almost two years leading up to the dam failure event FLTF was proactively pursuing a long-term solution for the lakes and dams, and it will continue to do so.
Did FLTF get dismissed from any of the class actions? Four Lakes Task Force was dismissed from all three class action lawsuits in which it was named. FLTF is a nonprofit organization and county delegated authority representing the property owners of the four lakes. We act on behalf the communities, Midland and Gladwin counties and the Special Assessment District. Suing FLTF is equivalent to suing those who have suffered losses. We are pleased that the counsel representing the class-plaintiffs saw the wisdom of our position.
Will FLTF sue Boyce Hydro? As the delegated authority of the counties and representative of the lake property owners, we do not believe it is in the best interest of the community to allocate efforts and funds to file a lawsuit against Boyce Hydro. The FLTF mission is to bring the lakes back and money directed towards suing Boyce would not contribute to the mission.
How can property owners attain a sense of justice? We believe that restoring the dams and bringing back the lakes is the ultimate form of justice in this situation. The communities should expect lakes and it is our right to have them restored.
recovery & restoration plan
What is the process for recovery and restoration?
Our plan consists of three phases:
What is the recovery plan? Our focus for 2021 is on stabilization of the dams at current lake levels, debris removal and erosion mitigation.
What is the goal for dam restoration? Our goal is a dam design that brings back lake levels, at the current industry standards, to ensure reliability and integration so that the dams are built as affordably as possible without sacrificing public safety and restoring the environment. Four Lakes has a sense of urgency to restore the dams as quickly as is safely possible.
What’s the timing for recovery and restoration? Please see slide 19 from our December meeting. Timing is highly dependent on the results of the investigation, and community, state, and federal government collaboration.
How will the regulatory process impact recovery and restoration?
What reports and studies are needed to meet regulatory approval?
FERC and the state continue to remind us (and we agree) that history must not repeat itself. This means the agency must have full confidence that another failure cannot occur. There will be intense regulatory oversight and involvement in this process to ensure safety, and the agencies have indicated they will be very conservative with dam design and construction. We have a duty of care to keep people safe.
The final construction timeline will depend on receiving regulatory approval from the agencies for design. We will follow the process and timing as set forth by the regulatory agencies.
Before construction can begin, we will need a final:
secord lake water level
Can the water level of Secord Lake be brought up earlier than the other lakes?
The following four items are critical to the restoration of interim lake levels at Secord Lake.
special assessment district
Please see the Special Assessment District-FAQs for answers to the below questions.
What is the role of a special assessment district?
Who is in the Four Lakes Special Assessment District?
How is the authority to establish the lakes granted?
What authority regulates dam safety?
How will the assessment be calculated and allocated?
Is FLTF still using the same factors (headwater, amount of frontage, adjoining properties, etc.) to determine what each parcel’s assessment will be?
What costs are included in assessments?
What about 2021 and beyond for the capital improvement component of the assessment?
What about weeds?
How will property owners’ input be heard?
Can we have a public vote on the Four Lakes Special Assessment District?
How do I appeal the assessment?
What happens to the property assessment if I sell my property?
How long will it take to rebuild the dams? This is a massive effort with many moving parts (government, environmental, regulatory, legal, operations, community affairs, finance, engineering). We predict that it’ll be 2026 by the time all four dams are rebuilt.
Our goal is a dam design that brings back lake levels, at the current industry standards, to ensure reliability and integration, with dams that are built as affordably as possible without sacrificing public or environmental safety. We will not sacrifice community or environmental safety for the sake of speed or recreation. It takes time to investigate funding sources and address the environment (not just the dams).