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Hydroelectric Power


With a team of attorneys experienced in water law issues, Varnum has a long history of involvement in hydropower and dam projects for clients, including public and private parties, utilities and others involved in dam operations in Michigan and other states.

For more information, please contact either your Varnum attorney, or Matt Zimmerman at 616/336-6536 or

Dam-Related Representation

Our attorneys have extensive experience with the regulatory and real property issues presented by the installation, operation and removal of dams. We have represented clients in matters involving constructing dams, removing dams, reactivating dams and licensing hydropower facilities at dams. These matters have included determining flowage rights and riparian rights for upstream and downstream property owners. Our work has included the following water bodies:

  • Au Sable River
  • Black River
  • Boardman River
  • Cooke Dam Impoundment
  • Flat River
  • Grand River
  • Jordan Lake
  • Fish Creek
  • Kalamazoo River
  • Mill Pond at Mill Creek
  • Pigeon River
  • Rogue River
  • St. Joseph River
  • Thornapple River

Meeting Client Needs

We have represented municipalities and utilities with regard to the permitting, use of and decommissioning of dams. We have assisted our clients with delineating riparian rights, dividing the ownership of bottomland, obtaining and opposing flowage easements, developing and opposing the development of waterfront, permitting and opposing the permitting of marinas, establishing and opposing the establishment of lake levels, and establishing legal mechanisms to protect waterways and adjoining lands for conservation purposes. We have also worked with clients to meet fish ladder and other natural resource requirements associated with licensing and operation. In addition, we have experience handling the issues arising out of potentially contaminated sediments in impoundments.

Power Generation

We have represented clients on hydropower and other power generation-related matters before Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Michigan Public Service Commission, and other federal, state and local regulatory agencies. We have assisted clients in negotiating power purchase agreements with utilities for the sale of electricity from hydropower and other generating projects. We have also assisted clients with the development and transfer of power purchase agreements and guided clients through the process surrounding renewable energy credits and other benefits of renewable power generation.

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