Edenville Finger Pointing — The Plot Thickens

The owner of the Edenville Dam claims he asked the local Wixom Lake Association for financial help to repair the Edenville Dam. According to News 12 in Flint, Michigan, he says they refused, and now that the dam has collapsed homeowners are suing.

This opens interesting possibilities.

One construct is that the owner saw the collapse coming, asked the people who most benefit from the dam to help pay for the repairs, and when those people refused the owner basically washed his hands of it. The dam collapsed and the homeowners whose lake was suddenly replaced with a mosquito-infested mud flat sued, claiming no responsibility for anything.

This could be developing into a classic American infrastructure story: refusal to bear the costs turns to neglect turns to catastrophe turns to blame-game. It’s happening all over the country, with bridges and roads and every other kind of infrastructure. The goal of our politics has been keeping taxes low, particularly on rich people, and the easiest expense to defer is maintenance. After decades, the bills are coming due.

There are other explanations, of course. The dam owner, for example, could be lying. He would certainly seem to have a motive for passing the buck to someone else. The courts will figure it out.

But it makes me wonder how many other small hydroelectric dams there are that were purchased by disinterested and distant investors for long-term cash-flow — and how many of those dams aren’t getting any maintenance. Also, Senator Diane Feinstein is introducing the 21st Century Dams Act, which gives almost $26-billion for the repair of dams. How many of those are privately owned and, in effect, being bailed-out by taxpayers?

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