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I haven’t seen anything here about the flooding in mid-Michigan that happened last week. It rained hard for a few days and the Edenville Dam broke, spilling Wixom Lake into Sanford Lake. Soon, Wixom Lake was drained, overflowing the Sanford Dam, destroying the little town of Sanford. The Midland area was flooded, destroying homes, businesses, and bridges. Thousands evacuated, including Midland Hospital, in a large disaster that seemed like something out of a movie.
The US-20 bridge over Sanford Lake was taken out. Dow said its containment ponds were breeched, but not to worry, so far. No deaths or injuries have been reported. I haven’t heard about any pets, etc. Also, parts of Arenac and Iosco Counties sustained damage. Lots of farming there; don’t know if that was effected yet. The US-23 bridge at Omer is out, and Tawas was flooded, twisting the train tracks. Those I saw interviewed said they did not have flood insurance. The news calls it a once in 500-year event.
I am somewhat familiar with the lakes, have drafted a few additions and homes in the area. Wixom is a man-made lake, with many vacation and second homes. It has a marina and sits about 17 miles northwest of Midland, home of Dow Chemical. The dam is privately owned. The Detroit News has good articles with historical information; basically, for years the dam has been an ongoing issue. The residents want the water raised for boating, the dam owners like it lower because they don’t have the money to repair it (and the feds pulled their ability to sell electricity because it was failing). In frustration, the feds turned it over to the state in 2018, and the state sued the dam owner (the first week of May) to keep the water level up to protect freshwater mussels. That didn’t work out so well; hope we come out of their COVID dictates better. Today, Wixom is basically a mudhole. Some residents are suing the state. A group was investigating buying the dam before this happened. (There is a “House Hunters” episode where the couple bought a house on Sanford lake.)
Here’s the real kicker to the story: according to the Detroit Free Press, Michigan’s Dam Safety Unit consists of three people; two staff and one supervisor with a department budget of $397,000.
With probably billions of dollars, years of cleanup, rebuilding, lawsuits, environmental and health concerns (Dow seems to be in litigation always), our Governor came right away to give a speech saying how terrible it was, asking for federal help, reminding us we are in the middle of a pandemic and to stay safe from that. Then a few days later, after extending the stay at home order until June 12, she went to her cabin up north where restrictions were lifted. By her. There is a story that my sister told me about the governor’s husband asking to get his boat launched dropping the governor’s name in order to get faster service. Some animals really are more equal.
I wonder what the condition of some of those other dams is like? I wonder whether I should cross the Zilwaukee bridge very soon. For those who are unfamiliar, it replaced the only (drawbridge) stop on I-75 from Michigan to Florida. It immediately had problems and was closed, fixed, reopened, fixed poorly later, closed, fixed again, and opened. It isn’t even pretty. People drove around on the business loop in Saginaw for a long time because of that.
Michigan is full of water, bridges, and dams. The Saginaw county drain commissioner (a Democrat) fought for years to get the Saginaw River dredged so shipping could continue, and was fought by environmentalists because of dioxins from Dow. Containment land for the dredging became a battle. If you live in Bay City, bridges are a fact of life. To go from one side of town to the other, you have to plan extra time for a bridge opening in the summer. Shipping boats are one thing, but it is the sailboats that make you fume in the middle of a workday. Boats have the right of way. Maintenance has been an issue, and the city is selling two of its four drawbridges to a private concern. They will be toll bridges.
Maybe we should have fewer advisors in the Coronavirus unit, and more concerning those things we can do something about, like bridges and dams. It could be argued that this governor ran on fixing the roads, which is true, but with massive tax hikes on gasoline, and budget line-item vetos like rural hospital cuts. I don’t mind bad roads compared to bad bridges and dams.
Republicans wanted to fix the roads too, and that voter proposition was soundly defeated during Snyder’s term. They tried again without voters, and that wasn’t going over either. They always ask for more than the roads. The proposals are not pure but lump in other pet projects similar to Pelosi’s stimulus. People don’t like that, and politicians don’t seem to get the message. When there is a crisis, they pounce. It won’t be because of leadership but because of crisis that politicians will find people weak to their spending demands. The trillion-dollar stimulus packages are not unique, but standard policy.
Michigan is a high-tax, high-union (still) state, and the urban areas pretty much dictate policy. Perhaps we will have to make trade-offs, something high tax liberal politicians are adverse to when it comes to money. One can hope.
The people of mid-Michigan are basically good people with conservative values if they don’t always vote that way. Midland is still pretty conservative territory. Dave Camp came from Midland. Emergency help, which is volunteer in some places, performed well. Those in the flood areas have to be given credit for keeping pretty calm in the face of such devastation. I look at the homes and properties, but I think about the photos and all the personal items that were lost forever. I look around my house and I have all kinds of things given to me for gifts or from a grateful customer or friend, or when my kids were little, grandkids, my Bible, things my mother and father had that are tattered and probably considered by some junk, and would miss those things much more than the couch or stove.
Yet, God is still in control. I say that by faith, not because an expert told me. Often when things look bad, there is a reason to look forward. A lot of people come out of adversity much stronger than before. I hope that is true with this latest crisis.Published in