Plants cropping up in lost Michigan lakes where dams failed

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Vegetation thrives where a boat ramp once did at the Sanford Lake Marina, while erosion could threaten homes on the opposite shore of what was once Sanford Lake, July 30, 2020, near Sanford, Mich. Nature is returning to the dry beds of a string of mid-Michigan lakes that drained in May after two dams failed during torrential rains. (AP Photo/ Jeff McMillan)

LANSING, Mich. – Nature is returning to craters left from lakes drained by two dams that failed in May during torrential rain in mid-Michigan.

But not always in a good way.

“Shortly after the water receded, you could look out over the exposed bottom lands of the lake and it was like looking at the Sahara Desert,” said Dave Rothman, a board member with the Four Lakes Task Force, which is looking to obtain the four dams as well as the two lakes that were not drained. “That persisted on through about the middle of July. And then all that 90-plus degree weather that we had, then we started to get some rain and over the course of two weeks, the lake bottoms just mushroomed with plants.”

Four Lakes Task Force wants to use eminent domain to gain ownership of four Midland-area dams — including the Edenville and Sanford dams that failed in the May 19 storms, sending water raging down the Tittabawassee River and flooding homes and businesses.

It hopes to restore the infrastructure and shoreline of Wixom and Sanford lakes and prevent homes from being lost to the eroding edges of what were once the lakes.

It has filed requests in the courts to obtain the dams. Under eminent domain, the owners, Boyce Hydro and and Boyce Hydro Power, could be ordered to sell the properties to the task force as the governmental body representing the counties, task force spokesperson Stacey Trapani said.

The owners for years failed to invest and comply with government-set standards for health and safety on the hydroelectric Edenville dam. The two companies have since filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. They have blamed regulators and an insistence on high lake levels for the dam failures.

The state sued the owners, seeking fines for the destruction of natural resources as well as “gross mismanagement.”