Residents, businesses sue dam operator over ruinous flooding

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Neil Blake, MLive

In this Wednesday, May 20, 2020, photo, people survey the flood damage to the Curtis Road Bridge in Edenville, Mich., over the Tittabawassee River. The bridge sits just south of Wixom Lake where the dams failed. (Neil Blake/The Grand Rapids Press via AP)

SPAULDING TOWNSHIP, Mich. – Residents and businesses in Central Michigan communities that were submerged when two dams failed this week on Friday sued the operator of the dams and two state agencies charged with overseeing the structures.

The lawsuit came as yet more residents were forced to evacuate their homes after being overwhelmed by flooding along the Tittabawassee River and conjoining waterways.

About a dozen people have left their homes in Spaulding Township where some roads and fields are under 4 to 5 feet (1.2 to 1.5 meters) of floodwater, but some in the community refused to leave despite warnings, Fire Chief Tom Fortier said Friday.

Water stood 2 to 3 feet (0.6 to 1 meter) deep in some houses, Fortier said.

The Tittabawassee became engorged late Tuesday when the aging Edenville and Sanford dams failed after heavy rain. The river crested Wednesday in Midland — about 20 miles (32 kilometers) upstream from Spaulding Township — leaving the small city and surrounding areas under several feet of water and forcing about 11,000 people to evacuate their homes.

President Donald Trump declared an emergency Thursday.

Several homes were damaged in Midland, but no one has been injured or killed. Selina Tisdale, a Midland city spokeswoman, said Friday that displaced residents are allowed to return home if it is safe to do so.

The flooded Tittabawassee and Shiawassee rivers flow into the Saginaw River, and that’s presenting a danger for Spaulding Township, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) north of Detroit.