The state claims that the subsidence, which lasted more than a year, threw hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of sediment downstream. The mud at a depth of up to 12 feet in spots posed a threat to public safety, buried animals and their habitats, and hindered recreation, according to a document Tuesday issued on behalf of the Department of the Environment, Great Lakes and Energy of Michigan (EGLE) and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.


The lawsuit alleges that the damage could have been avoided if only the companies, Michigan STS Hydropower LLC and Delaware, Eagle Creek Renewable Energy, LLC, owned by Ontario Power Generation Inc., would have listened to state and federal regulators who said the owners dams establish sediment control before immersing the reservoir.

According to the state schedule, Eagle Creek told EGLE on October 31, 2019 that it was immediately lowering the reservoir, citing the urgent need to address issues that government dam supervisors at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) first discovered two years earlier. .

FERC instructed company officials in November 2017 to repair the gates that control the flow of water from the dam. But company officials have not been able to fully address the issues identified, the lawsuit alleges. Then an inspection of the company in 2019 revealed additional damage to the “pins” that support the gate, which led to the decision to sag.

Government officials urged owners to look for alternatives to full subsidence and recommended ways to prevent the migration of sediments downstream, according to the state schedule.

But while Eagle Creek slowed the rate of cuts and later moved the mussels that ran aground as a result of the subsidence, government officials say company officials ignored their requests to introduce adequate control over the deposits. And, according to the lawsuit, company officials did not request government permits for the drawdown until the facts emerged. The result: the sludge is washed downstream in quantities sufficient to bury a 173-foot-deep football field. MLive has documentary extensive damage to the environment.

In recent years, state regulators have repeatedly ordered Eagle Creek to eliminate damage to the environment, but the state claims that the owners of the dams have not succeeded. Its owners have so far cleared less than one percent of the downstream sediments, according to Nessel’s lawsuit.

“The lack of urgent action by companies to combat these dangers has left no alternative but to initiate this civil action,” Nessel said in a statement. “STS Hydropower, LLC, and Eagle Creek Renewable Energy, LLC, must now bear the burden of remedying the damage and be responsible for disregarding legal obligations.”

On Wednesday, Eagle Creek officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Bridge Michigan. In a statement, SES officials said the cuts were necessary to prevent public safety risks.

In an explicit reference to the Midland Dam in 2020, which occurred after flood waters broke a dam that regulators had repeatedly called for in need of repairs, an STS statement said a failure to build a reservoir behind the Morrow Dam “could have led to a disaster similar to to others. events in Michigan and other places where the dams failed unexpectedly and immediately. ”

STS said in a statement that company officials had “active settlement discussions” with government officials prior to the lawsuit and remained “open to a fair decision – in court or otherwise – taking into account all the circumstances and the interests of everyone involved.”

EGLE Director Lisl Clark said in a statement that government regulators prefer to work together to clean up the environment, but “in this case, the responsible party has failed to meet its obligations to the law and society.”

The lawsuit is punishable under state law on natural resources and environmental protection and common law, including asking the court to oblige companies to clean up the damaged river, plus fines of tens of thousands of dollars a day, money to compensate for damage to natural resources, and reimbursement of government regulatory and legal costs.

The two Kalamazoo lawmakers are also pushing for changes to state law that will give regulators more opportunities to order the immediate elimination of such environmental emergencies.

Democrat Senator Kalamazoo’s Sean McCann and MP Julie Rogers will amend state environmental law to give EGLE the power to issue emergency orders without waiting for long periods of negotiations when a situation on an inland lake or creek could harm public safety. property, natural resources or public confidence in these natural resources ”.

McCann approved Nessel’s lawsuit and promised in a statement Wednesday to continue “every opportunity for immediate clearing of the river” while the case continues. Both bills are in the committee where the first hearings took place.

Environmentalists, meanwhile, are watching with concern as rainfall continues to migrate downstream, hiding habitats for fish and wildlife and hindering fishing and rowing. In January, golfers rescued a man who was stuck in at the waist in the river.

“I like to call it a tragedy,” said Cheryl Vosburg, executive director of the Kalamazoo River Watershed Council.

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