2020 will soon be behind us, but our work in many ways is just starting.
The counties made the decision to take the Boyce property and escape from an owner and system that failed to keep us safe, left people without homes and facing major repairs and an uncertain future.
Regretfully, some of us will choose to move before we rebuild. It is unfair and wrong that the previous dam owner would be allowed to under-invest, and the very people that are impacted should pay. We live with these facts every day as we help people recover. We are blessed with an incredible team of volunteers and experts that are focused on helping people recover AND rebuild our future.
We can have lakes AND improve the management of floods for those downstream and in the Four Lakes Basin. First, dams should not fail. However, dams or no-dams, the threat of historical floods still exist. Based on the U.S. Army Corp of Engineer’s criteria of “Benefits to Cost Ratio,” the new dams cannot be rebuilt on the economics of flood control. Four Lakes Task Force (FLTF) needs to do its part to protect the downstream communities as we rebuild.
We have engaged with Midland County who is sponsoring an Army Corp’s Flood Plan Management Services plan to understand the options for dealing with flood hazards - an important step to improve flood management, not just downstream of the four lakes, but in all of Midland County’s three-river system.
We cannot waste time. Volunteers stepped up to help, yet they have been sued and had their motives and ethics questioned. FLTF has no obligation or resources to speak to false narratives or unfounded accusations, and we certainly do not speak for Boyce, FERC, or any other entity other than ourselves. There are many investigations and lawsuits underway. Our time has to be spent on bringing back these lakes.
OUR FUTURE! FLTF, along with the counties and our community, have a focus on recovery from this failure and on restoring our lakes. It will take time, years, to build a system that we are confident will never fail us again, to ensure the communities on the lakes and downstream are safe, and the environment is restored. It takes money, lots of money; over $300 million for restoring the lakes once we are through the recovery phase. While the community will have to pay something, it is an unreasonable burden for the property owners to bear it all themselves.
Our elected representatives to the state and federal governments understand this. We have already received commitments of over $50 million in federal, state and private funds to support the recovery, studies and engineering to design our future. We need to complete the engineering to obtain construction funds. In 2021 we plan to complete most of our recovery work and most of our studies and have a clearer view of our engineering design and recovery costs.
We have this moment in time to restore our lakes. It can be done in an affordable way for the community with the continued help of you, our community leaders, the State of Michigan, and the federal government. We are more optimistic every day, working with our volunteers, elected leaders and our team of experts. We thank you and the community for your help and support to bring our four lakes back.
We appreciate the trust we have been given and we will not let you down.
Dave Kepler, President
On behalf of the board of the Four Lakes Task Force
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