The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission or FERC is the governing body for hydro electric facilities in the United States. FERC regulates all hydroelectric generation plants by licensing each facility. The control of Sanford Lake resides between FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) and Boyce Hydro Trust. Michigan DNR is a key stakeholder however they defer issues to FERC for enforcement.
The first dam owners, Wolverine Power Company, ran the dam for years before FERC ruled the Tittabawassee River as navigable in the 1980’s. This gave FERC the legal power to force Wolverine Power to secure a license for the dam. Wolverine Power fought this and lost in a lengthy court battle. On Dec. 1, 1987 the license was granted; Sanford Project Number P-2785. A rehearing of the license order was done on January 28, 1988 and the license was amended to add or clarify sections of the original license.
As part of the license the operation of the dams were changed to “run of the river” mode. This means a minimum flow must always be maintained throughout the dam systems. In addition the license for Sanford Dam spells out pool levels to be maintained and details on the annual winter draw-down. Per the license the only variations to pool levels can occur during maintenance or emergencies. Note: This is much different than the mode Wolverine Power ran the dams and lake levels before FERC licensed them.
The three other dams in the chain are considered separate projects by FERC and are licensed separately; Edenville Project Number P-10808, Secord Project Number P-10809, and Smallwood Project Number P-10810.