EDENVILLE TWP, MI – With the failure of Edenville Dam earlier this week, Lake Wixom has left a shadow of its former self. The question now is, can the lake itself be saved?
“It’s basically going back to the old river channel now,” said Edenville City Superintendent Craig Gosen about the current lake water level. The lake usually has a coastline of around 84 miles and a maximum depth of around 40 feet, before heavy rainy days fall earlier this week.
Lake Wixom was formed in 1925 with the construction of the Edenville Dam, a 4.8-megawatt, 6,600-foot earth gravity dam that seized both the Tittabawasee River and its tributary, the Tobacco River.
Since Tuesday, May 19, dam failure, Lake Wixom water has been significantly reduced. Its low waters have developed into a muddy, flowing river, bounded by dirt and sand.
The boat lifts behind the houses by the lake were free standing, the water they were standing on was only a few meters away, churning at the bottom of a steep slope like a river through a canyon.
Covered in zebra shells, a large piece of abandoned machine protrudes like a rusty statue, exposed from the receding waters that have been hiding it for almost a century.
“That is the original steam shovel used in the original construction in the 20s,” said Larry Woodard, president Wixom Lake Association who owns a house on a lake in Billings City, Gladwin County. “For some reason, just left there.”
The Lake Wixom Association has around 1,900 members, Woodard said.
“We are not doing anything right at the moment,” Woodard said of the association’s activities since the dam collapsed. Before that, council members had to cancel two meetings because of COVID-19 based contact no-orders. Maybe it will be a few weeks before another meeting can be held, said Woodard.
Because the dam failed, more problems arose, he added.
“Now we make people run patches and side by side on the shores of a jammed lake and need to be saved,” Woodard said, frustration clearly visible in his voice. “It’s a mess. We are working now, trying to make the marina close their docks, but there are lots of private docks and ramps too. They don’t realize that there are places out there that are dirty and they go in there and hang. “
Gosen said it was not yet known exactly how many houses were affected by the disaster.
“We haven’t counted yet,” he said. “They are in the process of carrying out damage assessments, but there are hundreds. There are many houses in Edenville. There is total destruction in some areas. Some people who are taller have not suffered damage, but anyone who is lower than the water level suffers a lot of damage.”
Woodard’s house, which is located about one and a half miles north of the dam, itself is submerged in water as high as 6 to 8 inches.
“I was there when the dam was destroyed and it only took less than two hours for the lake to disappear,” Woodard said. “I’m one of the lucky ones. I have a neighbor to the south of me who has 5 feet of water in their house.”
Woodard has since owned a restoration company at his residence, removing floors and carpets.
“They are now trying to dry the house, assess damage to drywall, spray mold, mildew and odors, that sort of thing.”
Beyond personal disasters that befall the lives of individuals, the economic impact is very surprising to contemplate. Property values certainly suffer financial impacts, said Gosen, because valuations around Lake Wixom are usually higher than other properties.
“This will have an impact not only on the people on the lake but on everyone in the area who depends on the property tax revenue,” Gosen said. “County, school … There is a lot depending on the grade being assessed.”
Woodard supports Gosen’s sentiment.
“I get a lot of phone calls,” Woodard said. “People are wondering what will happen. My understanding is to lower your judgment, this is a one-year process and it depends on the comparison in your environment. Who will buy a place here now? How will you get the comparable? I really don’t know. “
In the 90s since the lake’s construction, this lake has become a mainstay for outdoor enthusiasts.
“This is a gift for the whole area when you see it fishing opportunities“recreational opportunities,” said Gosen. “This has a large positive economic impact across the region.”
Both Gosen and Woodard hope that the Edenville Dam and the break through the Sanford Dam to the south can be repaired or rebuilt, even though they admit that is the way to not happen.
“This is too early,” Gosen said if the reconstruction discussion had not yet taken place. “I think the president commented that the dam will be rebuilt. That’s a good idea at the moment, but it’s too soon to say. So many things that need to be considered and considered. The first step, of course, is to determine the feasibility of rebuilding the two dams, then the cost factor arises.
“I certainly hope for residents around the lake, throughout the region, that they will be rebuilt,” he continued. “This is a significant economic boost to owning a lake here. Without it, there will be a huge financial impact on society from here on down. “
Even if the decision is finally taken to repair the dam and remodel Lake Wixom, the reality of things that are back to normal is years to come.
“When everything is engineered, offers are left, and whatever has to be done, I would say it will be at least a year,” Woodard said.
Gosen offers a serious and concise statement on this issue.
“The lake will go down for the foreseeable future.”
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