Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Geological Engineering (MS)

Administrative Home Department

Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences

Advisor 1

Thomas Oommen

Committee Member 1

John Gierke

Committee Member 2

Stanley Vitton


The Edenville Dam was an earth dam located approximately 15 miles northwest of Midland, Michigan. The dam impounded the Tobacco and Tittabawassee Rivers, forming Wixom Lake. On May 19th, 2020, the dam failed after three days of elevated rainfall. Flood waters from Wixom Lake caused the overtopping of the Sanford Dam downstream, and the flooding of the surrounding area. The Edenville Dam was 95 years old at the time of failure and was constructed before modern geotechnical engineering methods were widely practiced. Dam infrastructure similar to Edenville is not uncommon, requiring the need for increased monitoring. A pre-failure analysis was conducted to show the application of remote sensing in dam monitoring. A Persistent Scatterer Interferometry (PSI), a form of synthetic aperture radar (SAR), analysis of 25 Sentinel-1 images was used to measure line-of-sight displacement 15 months prior to the failure. A Soil Moisture Index (SMI) analysis of 14 Landsat-8 images were used to observe relative moisture content between 2016 and 2020. The PSI analysis showed stable embankments along the dam had velocities ranging from 0 to -5 mm/yr. A localized area of negative displacement with a velocity of -20 mm/yr, was observed approximately 30 m north of the failure location. Displacement was not observed within the approximate failure location, suggesting movement did not occur in the 15 months prior, or rapid deformation (> 30 mm/yr) occurred resulting in the decorrelation of the SAR signal. The SMI analysis showed the Edenville Dam exhibited no long-term change (increase or decrease) in relative soil moisture content from 2016 to 2020. The study illustrates the benefits and limitations of the PSI and SMI analysis in the Edenville example and makes recommendations for future monitoring/analysis work.