A grant program to address the state’s failing dam infrastructure could help pay for work needed on some of the 150 dams operating in Oakland County.
The Dam Management Grant Program will provide $2.35 million in the 2013 fiscal year to fund dam removal and critical maintenance.
“This program begins to address a growing issue for our state as more than 90 percent of Michigan’s dams will reach or exceed their design life by 2020,” Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Director Keith Creagh stated in a press release. “Many dams are abandoned, no longer serve any useful purpose, degrade our aquatic resources and pose safety hazards to downstream residents.”
Eight dams located in Oakland County are categorized as “high hazard potential dams,” meaning serious damage to buildings, utilities, roads and loss of life could occur if any one of them had a major failure, according to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).
Fifteen dams in the county are considered “significant hazard potential” dams, while the remaining 127 are “low hazard potential” dams.
“Hazard potential depicts the downstream flooding hazard if the dam should fail, and doesn’t indicate the condition of the dam or its likelihood of failure,” said Luke Trumble of the DEQ’s Hydrologic Studies and Dam Safety Unit.
Trumble said the DEQ doesn’t like to release specific locations of high-hazard dams because that could make them a target for people wishing to put public safety at risk.
The DEQ identified 11 dams that are in either poor or unsatisfactory condition in the county, including four in the lakes area.
While the DEQ maintains a database of more than 2,500 dams in the state, the department regulates only those that meet certain size requirements, or are used to regulate lake levels under state law.
Nearly 75 percent of the state’s dams are privately owned, with many of the facilities, as well as those in public ownership, falling apart. A 2009 report by the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the state a “D” in its Dam Infrastructure Rating, according to the DNR.
Steve Korth of the Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner’s Office said the office is responsible for 36 dams in the county, all of which are used to regulate lake levels.
“We do have about half a dozen dams rated high or significant hazard that we look at most closely,” Korth said. “Because we have regular inspections… we don’t have dams that are on the verge of failure.”
Maintenance costs for all the dams overseen by the Water Resources Commissioner’s Office are funded by local special assessment districts (SADs), Korth said.
However, repair projects can be costly, particularly on large dams.
The Pontiac Lake dam, which has a “significant” hazard rating, is nearly 20-feet high and part of a 615-acre impoundment. Repairs there ordered by the DNR totaled $443,000, which was paid for by property owners through an SAD. About 35 percent of that amount was paid for by the DNR, which was part of the SAD.
Korth said a program recently announced by the DNR may help fund some maintenance or repair projects at the local level and across the state.
“Certainly, we will take a look at what work needs to be done on our dams and how they might fit into the parameters of the grant program,” Korth said. “We’ll review what work we have identified and needs to be done.”
The following Oakland County dams are listed in poor or unsatisfactory condition, according to the DEQ:
• Erity Dam, Erity Mill Pond, Beverly Hills (poor);
• Holly Dam (Stiff’s Millpond Dam), Holly Mill Pond, Holly, (poor);
• Indian Lake Dam, Indian Lake, Addison Township (poor);
• Pettibone Creek Dam No. 1, Lower Mill Pond, Milford (poor);
• Pettibone Pond Dam (Winegar Lake Dam), Pettibone Pond, Milford (poor);
• Haven Hill Lake Dam, Haven Hill Lake, Highland Township (poor);
• Susin Lake Dam, Susin Lake, Clarkston (poor);
• Walled Lake Shawood Lake Dam, Walled Lake and Shawood Lake, Walled Lake (poor);
• Endicott Lake Dam, Endicott Lake, Birmingham, (unsatisfactory);
• Fenton Dam No. 1 (Upper Fenton Dam), Fenton (unsatisfactory); and
• Fenton Dam No. 2, Fenton, (unsatisfactory).
In addition, dams on the following lakes are rated as being in “fair” condition by the DEQ: Oakland-Woodhull Lakes; Commerce Lake; Davisburg Mill Pond; Loon Mowhawk Lakes; Ford Dam No. 3, Hubbell Pond; Pungs Dam, Pungs Lake; Waterford Multi-Lakes Level Control, Van Norman Lake, Lester Lake; Phipps Lake Dam, Phipps Lake; Big Seven Lake Dam, Big Seven Lake; Seven Lakes Addition Dam, Little Seven Lake; Lower Trout Lake Dam, Lower Trout Lake; Moore Lake Dam, Moore Lake; Heron Dam, Heron Lake; Davisburg Trout Pond Dam; Braemar Lake Dam, Lake Braemar; Duck Lake Dam; Walter Moore Dam, Crystal Lake; Union Lake; Bevins Lake Dam; Cass Lake No. 1 and No. 2; Waumegah Lake; McGinnis Lake; Northfield Hills; Middle and Lower Straigts Lake; Upper Straits Lake; Meadowbrook Lake; Waterfowler’s Impundment Dam; Orchard Lake Dam.