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We are actively involved in dealing with problematic dams in Michigan, from directly funding projects through grants to providing technical guidance. All dams in Michigan impact natural resources and the communities where you find them. Those impacts can be both positive or negative, most often a combination of both. When the negative impacts begin to outweigh the positives, the dam becomes a problem. Additionally, there are many dams that are, or soon will be, beyond their design life. Whether a decision is made to remove or rebuild a particular dam depends on specific criteria for each situation.
Regulations of Dams
EGLE Dam Safety
The Dam Safety Program administers the provisions of Part 307 (Inland Lake Levels) and Part 315 (Dam Safety) of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, 1994 PA 451, as amended to address dam safety and operation concerns for non-hydropower generating dams. There are over 2,500 dams in the State, 91 of those are regulated under the Inland Lake Levels Part and 816 regulated by the Dam Safety part.
Inland Lake Levels, Part 307, regulates dams that establish legal lake levels while Dam Safety (Part 315), regulates non-power dams over six feet in height and with more than five acres impounded during the design flood. An EGLE permit must be acquired prior to any construction or repair of regulated dams. Additionally, these dams must be inspected every three to five years based on hazard potential rating. Staff in the Dam Safety program are responsible for reviewing all inspection reports, inspecting all department owned dams, and inspecting municipal dams if requested.
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has regulatory control over all hydroelectric facilities and project operations that impact interstate trade, have post-1935 construction, use surplus water or waterpower from a federal dam, occupy federal lands, or are located on navigable water. In Michigan, we have over 100 FERC-regulated hydroelectric dams. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has considerable management responsibility on rivers that have hydroelectric facilities on them. Hydroelectric facilities limit resource management options on watersheds by adversely impacting both the riverine environment and the aquatic ecosystem in which they operate. The DNR's role as a state resource agency is to: 1) recommend data needs to evaluate these facilities; 2) recommend measures to mitigate adverse impacts; and 3) recommend license conditions for each project. FERC, however, is the ultimate decision-maker in the licensing process.