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'We saved nothing': Midland homeowners still struggling 1 year after historic flood

Posted at 11:13 AM, May 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-21 11:21:55-04

MIDLAND, Mich.  — The floodwater in Midland is gone, but many people are still left cleaning up the damage.

Thursday, local and state officials took the time to see just how far these communities have come since that historic flood just one year ago.

Many of those who lost everything in the flood are still waiting for financial relief.

Now, legal action is being taken to hold those responsible accountable.

"You know Kid Rock’s ‘summertime in northern Michigan’? I lived it," said Carl Hamann.

Take the short walk from the Sanford Dam to Carl Hamann's house and you have to pass his neighbor’s house. It's been leveled to the ground.

Part of his neighborhood, gone. Carl's house gutted down to the studs.

"We saved nothing," Carl told us.

His '84 corvette, gone, along with his tools, his tax papers. Even the walls aren’t salvageable.

Water came up to the middle of his windows, and Carl says they saw it coming.

MORE: One year ago, a 500-year flood swallowed Mid-Michigan

His attorney Ven Johnson agrees—someone dropped more than just the ball.

Johnson explained in a press conference the week of the one-year anniversary of the flood that holding the dam's owners accountable is now impossible.

Boyce Hydro LLC was granted bankruptcy by a federal court in April.

"What are you going to do government, when you have somebody, a bad actor, that's absolutely threatening the lives?" Johnson said.

Johnson says since he can't sue the company, he's suing the state of Michigan who oversaw the rules and, Johnson claims, knew the Edenville Dam was in disrepair.

The state's attorney general, in turn, is pointing the finger at Boyce Hydro in a statement saying, “The failure of the Edenville Dam was a terrible tragedy and the state has filed an enforcement action against those responsible, including Lee Mueller, to hold them accountable not just to flood survivors, but to all Michigan residents. The lawsuits that have been filed against state agencies are based on incorrect information about the state agencies' actions—as explained in the detailed briefs submitted in response.”

That briefing, 79 pages long, argues it wasn't the state's responsibility, but Boyce Hydro LLC.

Johnson says someone should pay the people of mid-Michigan back for the damages they incurred.

His clients don't care who pays for their damages. They just can't foot the bill any longer. There are hundreds of millions of dollars worth of damage not covered by insurance.

"I still have a mortgage, on my house.” On a house Carl can't live in.

Attorney Ven Johnson says he's encouraging people to call their local lawmakers.

They're hoping a lengthy legal battle can be avoided.

Make sure to check out part one of our special coverage of the flooding recovery efforts.