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A grassroots initiative started by property owners on the Tittabawassee Waterway System to restore the Secord, Smallwood, Wixom, and Sanford Lakes. Our mission is simple, it is in our name.

RestoreTheLakes is a place where our lake communities, local businesses and friends work together to restore the 4 Lakes. As a unified group, we communicate our concerns to government officials in a positive, thoughtful manner.

We all recall where we were the day the dams failed on May 19, 2020. That day the Edenville and Sanford dams breached. Thanks to our first responders there was no loss of life.

After the breach, both Secord and Smallwood dams, built about 100 years ago, were deemed unsafe by regulators and forced into drawdown. The 4 Lakes were gone in a matter of hours.

A vast majority of property owners desire to restore the lakes. Most if not all expressed frustration when we learned how many years it will take to secure the engineering, funds for construction, money for operations / maintenance, permits, bidding and construction. In the summer of 2020, the reality of rebuilding seemed like a distant if not unachievable goal.

Thanks to $222.5 Million in grants from the State of Michigan, we are rebuilding. We value the leadership of the volunteer Four Lakes Task Force (FLTF). We appreciate the $20 Million in support provided by the Federal government and the $5 million in private donations bringing the support to about $247.5 Million.

 

There is a plan in place, managed by the FLTF to rebuild the dams. The plan has the criteria required for success - - Milestones with Timelines, Funding, and Resources. While all may not “like everything about the plan”, there have been no viable alternatives provided. We are almost 4 years into the restoration with construction on all 4 dams, stopping now could be disastrous.

 

A group of people are using the courts to attempt to eliminate the funding required to continue construction. Grant money will be exhausted over the summer. At this point, due to legal disputes, construction on all 4 dams will suspend over the back half of this calendar year.

 

Until the courts resolve the issue, there is uncertainty as to when or if construction will resume. The following outlines our “reality” as property owners.

  • Engineering and Construction of the dams is to meet dam safety standards. The FLTF has coordinated with 14 regulatory agencies for permitting, design, financing, or consultation. Most of these agencies did not exist when the 4 dams were originally built.

 

  • Cost estimates from just 3 years ago have doubled. The culprits are a market flush with projects due to Federal infrastructure spending causing upward pricing pressure, compounding annual double-digit inflation, and escalating interest rates. Meeting dam safety standards and unforeseen construction challenges have also contributed.

  • Requirements for dam safety cannot be skipped to reduce costs.

 

  • There is a construction funding gap of $217 Million. This is the difference between the projected “not to exceed” cost of the project and the $247.5 Million in grants acquired by the FLTF. •The funding gap needs to be filled for construction to continue. Either additional grant money needs to be secured or loans need to be acquired. As with any loan, the lender needs assurance there are resources to “pay back the loan”. Hence the need for a construction assessment with the initial installment due February 2026.

  • Using the courts to hit the STOP button will not solve the problem, only make it worse as delays will create additional costs, additional time, real estate uncertainty and increased anxiety for the lake communities.

 

  • While it is easy to “rant” how politicians should provide funding, the reality is they need to build consensus with others to do so. For instance, in Michigan for an appropriation to pass there must be agreement from a majority in the House (110 people); Senate (38 people) and the Governor. The federal process is more complicated, and legal disruptions create difficulty to gain consensus.

 

  • We believe the answer is a blended approach comprised of several solutions. Additional help from the federal and state to lower the assessment costs for ALL property owners.

 

  • We can help solve this funding problem. By reaching out to our elected officials at the state and federal level to thoughtfully explain the situation, offer creative solutions, and ask for their help. We did this before -- as a lake community we were successful in helping the FLTF secure the $200 Million grant from the state of Michigan.

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To Learn how you can help, Please read the CALL TO ACTION area. We provide ideas on who you can connect with, what you may want to express and concepts to help solve the funding challanges so we can continue on the path to Restore the Lakes.

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