*** NATURAL RESOURCES COMMISSION POLICY ***
3402 - DAM
REMOVAL AND DISPOSITION
Issued September 7, 1979
DAM REMOVAL AND DISPOSITION
Many dams that presently exist in Michigan were constructed in the 1800's to provide water powered mills for sawing timber and grinding grain, During the early 1900's, development of hydroelectric power lent further emphasis to dam construction and many of the former sawmill and gristmill dams were converted to hydroelectric generation. Additional dams have been constructed for recreation, fish ponds, wildlife flooding, residential development, flood control, stormwater management, agricultural purposes and fish hatcheries.
Since the construction of modern large capacity electrical generating plants, the smaller, less efficient hydroelectric plants in Michigan, particularly in the Lower Peninsula, have been phased out and disposed of by owners. Consequently, many dams presently exist in Michigan that have outlived their usefulness and have become structurally unsound. These dams block the free movement of fish, adversely affect water quality and can have other undesirable impacts on the environment. Many of the impoundments have become so filled with sediments that their initial purpose has become severely limited.
The Department of Natural Resources, with its broad authority and responsibilities in fisheries, wildlife and resource management, has, unquestionably, an inherent interest in decisions regarding the disposition and removal of dams. Maintenance of the majority of old dams is primarily a matter of local interests however, any adverse affect on fisheries, water quality, and other environmental values is of significance to a larger segment of the public.
Dam removal requires a permit from the Department under the provisions of the Inland Lakes and Streams Act, Act 346, Public Acts of 1972.
Disposition of Dams: The Department opposes the disposition of dams by public and municipal utilities to private individuals or corporations. Dam owners shall be encouraged to consult with the Department when considering disposition of their dam facilities. Where dam facilities have outlived their usefulness, the Department shall request, and in every possible way encourage, owners to remove their dams when such removal would be in the public interest.
When a utility decides to dispose of a dam facility to a private individual or corporation, and such disposition is considered by the Department not to be in the best public interest, the Department shall take appropriate legal action to attempt to halt such disposition.
The Department shall not accept ownership of any dam unless sufficient funding has been provided for future operation and maintenance or removal, including funding for any necessary containment, control or removal of sediments.
Department Removal of Dams: Prior to the removal of any dam by the Department, an assessment of the impact of such removal shall be conducted. Included shall be an assessment of the extent of aggradation of the streambed downstream by released sediments and the resultant impact on river stages. Should the impact be significant the Department shall determine means of either containing, controlling or removing the sediments. Another important part of the assessment should focus on the upstream impact of continuing lower water levels.
Removal of Dams by Others: The Department shall request, and in every possible way encourage, dam owners to remove dams that have outlived their usefulness. The Department shall provide technical advisory assistance to dam owners regarding means of reducing the impact of such removal.
Supported by Commission action September 7, 1979.