90% supported rebuilding the dams and restoring the lakes
75% were willing to pay some level of assessment
Most of those who said they would be unwilling to pay an annual assessment believe that someone else should pay for the capital improvement and maintenance of the dams
Four Lakes Task Force (FLTF) has been very clear in its public position that the private dam owners and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) had the primary obligations to protect the public and the environment and enforce regulations to deal with prevention and recovery. Since the failures, the federal government, by the time the recovery effort is done, will have contributed approximately $30 million and the State of Michigan has granted to date $225 million for recovery, engineering and construction, to lessen the burden to those in the Four Lakes Special Assessment District. In addition, FLTF has received $5 million in private donations, significant volunteered time, and in-kind services.
Prior to the dam failures, all four dams required improvements and repairs. Unfortunately, even with the revenue from hydropower, the model for improving the dams was not sustainable under FERC regulation and Boyce Hydro’s control. This was the fundamental issue that led the lake associations to seek a public solution to preserve the four lakes, and further, led the Counties of Midland and Gladwin to take legal action to gain control. The legal process employed under Michigan law (i.e. Inland Lake Level Act) permits counties to transition from private dam ownership to public dam ownership and to establish a special assessment district to fund the acquisition, capital improvements, operation and maintenance of dams.
After the May 19, 2020 dam failure occurred, the private dam owner went bankrupt, and as a community, we found our way back to a place where we have a financeable plan and are ready to start construction on the restoration of the lakes this year.
This is a large and diverse lake system and FLTF has spent a significant effort in developing an apportionment methodology that addresses the diverse properties on the four lakes with a methodology that apportions project costs based on the benefits derived to private properties, political subdivisions (i.e. the counties, townships and Village of Sanford), and state-owned lands within the Four Lakes Special Assessment District. Prior to finalizing the apportionment methodology, FLTF garnered substantial public input to develop an assessment roll that conforms to Michigan law.
The recommendations the Delegated Authority (FLTF) will make at tomorrow’s special meetings of the counties:
Approve the Computation of Costs and the Assessment Roll for operations and maintenance which is needed as we restore the dams and lakes. No state or federal regulator would or should, nor should the county, accept the raising of a lake level without a financial commitment to maintaining the dams.
Approve the capital project estimate of $250,000,000. Not only is there a strong public desire to bring back the lakes, but people also want FLTF to keep or beat the target timeline.
We appreciate the county commissioners in their continued support in establishing legal lake levels, and will recommend they approve the project costs, computation of cost and assessment roll for the operations and maintenance costs for 2022, 2023 and 2024.
The plan to restore the lakes is in the best interest of the lake communities and the counties, and it is supported by most of the community. It’s time to start restoration construction of the dams to bring back the lakes.
President Four Lakes Task Force
Information on the July 12 Joint County Meeting
Tomorrow, Tuesday, July 12th, at 12:00 PM, the Gladwin and Midland county Boards of Commissioners will jointly meet at Meridian High School (3303 N Meridian Rd, Sanford, MI). The public is welcome to attend and there will be a public comment period.
At the meeting, FLTF is seeking approval of the following:
The computation of cost with respect to the administration, operations and maintenance of the lake levels and related facilities of the Four Lakes for the years 2022, 2023 and 2024, totaling $4,692,000 ($1,564,000 assessed each year for the years 2022, 2023 and 2024).
The estimated computation of cost in the amount of $250,000,000 in connection with the Lake Level Capital Improvement Project to proceed with restoration construction for the dams of Secord Lake, Smallwood Lake, Wixom Lake and Sanford Lake.
This special meeting is NOT a hearing. Individual changes to the assessment roll are not being considered nor is this an opportunity for property owners to appeal their assessment.
Information on Appealing Your Assessment
This special meeting of the Gladwin and Midland county Boards of Commissioners is NOT another hearing. It is the counties’ business meeting to review and consider approving project costs and the 3-year Four Lakes Special Assessment Roll. The Delegated Authority (FLTF) will present information regarding the changes/revisions to the assessment roll following the June 29 hearing. Once the project costs and assessment roll are approved, then property owners feeling aggrieved may appeal to the circuit court in accordance with Part 307 within fifteen (15) days.