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Task force: State's aging dams need money, regulatory manpower quickly1/3/2021
Michigan needs to do - and spend - much more to avoid further disasters like the two dam failures that caused catastrophic flooding in Midland and Gladwin counties in May 2020, the Michigan Dam Safety Task Force states in its final report submitted this week to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
The 19-member task force, including state department heads, engineers, dam safety officials and others, was convened by Whitmer following the Edenville and Sanford dam failures on the Tittabawassee River amid record rains last May. The dam failures drained the Wixom Lake and Sanford Lake impoundments, causing devastating flooding downriver in Midland, with more than $250 million in damages. Whitmer asked the task force to take a comprehensive look at the state's 2, autel Maxisys Ultra. 500 dams, about 1,100 of which are regulated by the state, and whether their regulation was adequate.
The task force's report was crafted after 22 public meetings and numerous other, smaller workgroup sessions. Among its findings, the task force recommends the state of Michigan:
"The state is heading toward a grave situation with many dams if significant investments are not made in the short and medium term," the report stated.
But the task force's recommendations - at those price tags - are going to be tough to accomplish, a retired, longtime Oakland County official said.
"(Policy makers) have got dozens of priorities; which ones do you deal with? Because you can't deal with them all," said Robert Daddow, who served as deputy county executive under L. Brooks Patterson in Oakland County for 28 years. Daddow resigned in August 2019 after Patterson's death and as new county executive David Coulter took office.
"The dams will be competing with roads - which is a political hot-button for Whitmer - and local issues like water and sewer."
Daddow, who was not part of Whitmer's Dam Safety Task Force, was appointed by then-Gov. Rick Snyder in 2016 to a 21st Century Infrastructure Commission, which issued a reportto advise the governor on a vision forward for the state on a variety of infrastructure challenges, including dams. Many of the same problems identified in Whitmer's task force's report were also outlined five years ago.
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"These decades-old dams have deteriorated due to age, erosion, poor maintenance, flood damage, or antiquated design; and they are particularly vulnerable during high water flow events," Snyder's commission's report stated in 2016.
"Dams are not routinely assessed for social and economic value and operational risks, which hinders reaching informed decisions on reinvestment, repair, removal, or replacement. Adequate, consistent, and long-term funding sources are limited for dam removal."
Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy Director Liesl Clark, a member of the Dam Safety Task Force, voices similar concerns now.
"Aging dams, just like all infrastructure throughout Michigan, suffer from a lack of consistent investment, which must be addressed if we want to avoid future tragedies," she said.
EGLE is in the process of hiring three additional dam safety engineers to join the current two who oversee Michigan's 1,100 regulated dams statewide.
But those historic staffing levels just don't work, Daddow said.
"The notion that you have two people to inspect these dams, when they need huge engineering studies to determine if they are going to fail, is ludicrous," he said.
He also questioned EGLE's regular practice of accepting safety inspection reports from contractors hired by dam owners, and then reviewing the paperwork.
"Why would somebody come clean on something they know is a problem?" Daddow said. "You can't have a self-inspection program. You have to do it with resources."
The revolving loan and grant program recommended by the task force would be helpful in allowing dam owners - often small subdivisions or families - to have funding sources to reduce risk, Daddow said. But, politically, it could be ...
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Thailand rejects speculation coronavirus emerged at Bangkok’s Chatuchak Market28/2/2021
A public health official this afternoon refuted a report suggesting Bangkok's sprawling Chatuchak Market was the origin of the global pandemic that has ravaged the world for over a year now.
Chawetsan Namwat of the Disease Control Department said Thailand has already looked into and dismissed the possibility in response to a Danish news report that the massive open market could have spawned Sars-Cov-2 amid a WHO inquiry looking at whether it originated in Southeast Asia rather than China.
"The Department of Disease Control has looked into the issue, and we can say that it's not true," said Chawetsan, head of the department's Disease Control and Emergency Health Risks Division. "There is no academic proof that it came from any animal [at the market]."
Denmark's Politiken published a Danish-language article Monday questioning whether Chatuchak was indeed "the place that brought the coronavirus to Wuhan." It cited Danish epidemiologist Thea Kolsen Fischer, who was on a recent WHO fact-finding mission to China that said Southeast Asia could be a source of the virus.
The team this month complained that its investigation was hampered by China's refusal to hand over critical data. While its probe did not rule out that the virus could have emerged as believed in Wuhan, Beijing immediately spun its findings as evidence that it didn't.
When the WHO results were announced earlier this month, Chinese state media began promoting the idea the virus emerged in Southeast Asia. A story in The Global Times quoted another member of the WHO team first suggesting a Thai link.
"There was a virus from Thailand close to the SARS-CoV-2, and also Japan and Cambodia. Ecohealth Alliance is already starting our work in tracing their origins," the paper quoted Peter Daszak.
The first known cases of what would later be named COVID-19 were found in the Wuhan Huanan seafood market, with theories that it came from a bat or pangolin.
At Chatuchak, rows of live animals including illicit wildlife are sold in dank quarters mostly out of sight of the thousands of tourists who pack it on weekends for T-shirts, souvenirs and tchotchkes.
Chawetsan this afternoon said health officials and wildlife officials have been putting preventive measures in place at several animal markets, including Chatuchak.
Politiken reported Fisher's belief that those exotic animals sold at Chatuchak, including snakes, meerkats, spiders and bats, – the latter of which in China's Wuhan was initially blamed to be the cause of coronavirus – and was visited by thousands of people from the globe.
Politiken is a daily Copenhagen broadsheet founded in 1884.
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