LANSING, Mich. Oct. 12, 2023 — In October 2019, STS Hydropower lowered water levels around the Morrow Dam to make repairs deemed necessary by federal regulators, creating a man-made disaster. Marking the four-year anniversary of this disaster, legislation has passed out of the House Committee on Natural Resources, Environment, Tourism and Outdoor Recreation allowing state environmental regulators to order responsible parties to conduct immediate cleanup.
“Today, I am encouraged that my bill, House Bill 4832, which addresses man-made disasters in our inland lakes, rivers and streams, passed out of committee. We are approaching the fourth anniversary of this ecological tragedy that unfolded in the Kalamazoo River after 400,000 cubic yards of sediment were dislodged, choking our fish and wildlife. I am happy that this bill will provide another tool for the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy’s director to address these devastating problems when they occur,” said state Rep. Julie Rogers (D-Kalamazoo).
HB 4832 provides authority for the director of the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) to issue written emergency orders requiring the removal of material from inland lakes and streams when it threatens or damages our natural resources or public health.
“It’s unbelievable that tons of sediment were allowed to flow over the Morrow Dam for more than a year. Even when it was obvious that sediment from behind the dam had accumulated downstream in deposits several feet thick — impacting public access to the river, risking the health of people, fish, wildlife and the Kalamazoo River ecosystem — that nothing was or has been done to remove these sediments and restore the river bottom,” said Doug McLaughlin, executive director of the Kalamazoo River Watershed Council. “The Kalamazoo River is one of our region’s greatest natural resources. Millions of dollars are being spent to restore it from past pollution problems, and thousands of people recreate on this river every year. Our region’s outdoor recreation economy has taken a hit. If responsible parties aren’t willing to prevent or repair the damage done by events like this, then regulators need to have the tools to compel action. The quality of life throughout the state of Michigan is at stake.”