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Michigan sues village over its attempt to rebuild failed dam

February 16, 2022 GMT

BREEDSVILLE, Mich. (AP) — A state agency is suing a southwestern Michigan village, accusing local officials of not obtaining necessary permits when they attempted to rebuild a 171-year-old dam that failed more than a decade ago.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy filed the lawsuit Feb. 4 against Breedsville, a tiny Van Buren County crossroads where a dam on the south branch of the Black River burst in 2008 during a period of heavy autumn rainfall.

The dam, which was built in 1837, had formed an 8-acre pond in the community of about 240 people.

State inspectors began increasing scrutiny in Breedsville two years ago following a complaint, MLive.com reported.

State regulators say local officials engineered an attempt to fix the dam without obtaining permits. State law requires permits for any dam repairs or construction work that occurs in a river or in wetland areas near or connected to an inland water body.

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The state agency wants a court to order the village to remove armor stone and fill dirt from a side channel next to Breedsville’s park, restore wetlands that existed before the earthwork and potentially pay fines accruing at $60,000 per day.

The Associated Press left a message seeking comment on the lawsuit for an attorney for Breedsville.

State Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a statement Tuesday that Breedsville “has had years to properly address the environmental concerns created by this improper response to the dam breach.”

The case has been assigned to an Ingham County judge.

Nessel’s office said the state’s environmental agency told village leaders in 2008 that rebuilding the failed dam would require a state permit.