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Michigan State Land Right-of-Way (3-MI-b)

In Michigan, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Finance and Operations Division – Real Estate Services Section’s (DNR) Land Manager administers the issuance of easements for the use of state lands under the DNR’s jurisdiction. Michigan – Act 451 of 1994, Part 21 – General Real Estate Powers. The DNR manages public lands totaling approximately 4.5 million acres of surface land.

The DNR may grant easements over, through, under, and upon all lands belonging to the state for, among other things, the purpose of constructing, erecting, laying, maintaining, and operating electric lines and associated structures. MCL § 324.2129.

The DNR will consider issuing an easement for the use of state-owned land only when the use of state-owned land is the only alternative for the proposed use.

State Land Right-of-Way Process

3-MI-b.1 – Hold Pre-Application Meeting

The DNR strongly recommends that the developer contact the local DNR land manager prior to submitting an easement application in order to discuss the developer’s proposed use of DNR lands and to possibly meet at the proposed project site.

3-MI-b.2 – Easement Application

To request an easement for the use of state-owned land, the developer must submit the following items directly to the DNR’s Real Estate Division:

  • A completed Easement Application for Utility or Public Road;
  • A recordable survey and legal description of the easement area requested on state-owned lands, which meets the following requirements:
    • Showing all quarter-quarter lines;
    • Labeling quarter-quarters;
    • Indicating the amount of square footage in each quarter-quarter; and
    • Showing all existing forest roads, trails, right-of-ways, structures, utility lines, pipelines, waterlines, etc., in the easement area.
Note: Although not required, submitting a PDF file of the survey will aid in the review and approval process;

3-MI-b.3 to 3-MI-b.5 – Review Application for Completeness

If the application is incomplete, the DNR will contact the developer to request any additional items needed before the DNR can complete its review of the developer’s request. Additionally, the DNR will not begin its review of the developer’s application until the application fee is received. Easement Application for Utility or Public Road.

3-MI-b.6 – Publish Notice/Hold Public Hearing (If Applicable)

The DNR may elect to issue public notice of the developer’s application and to hold a public hearing regarding the application if the DNR determines that it is appropriate to do so.

3-MI-b.7 – Review Application

The DNR will grant an easement for the use of state lands if:

  • The proposed use provides for necessary and beneficial public services;
  • Conditions and requirements can be established that will effectively mitigate the impact on the natural environment; and
  • The use is not in conflict with the primary use or purpose for which the state land was acquired or for which the state land is being used.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources Procedure 28.46-05 – Easement for the Use of State Lands.

Protection of the natural environment is the DNR’s primary consideration in making a determination about whether or not to authorize a specific long-term use of state-owned lands. The DNR strongly disapproves of any encroachment of utility lines into wilderness, wild, and natural areas, state parks and recreation areas, game areas, or the travel or water influence zones in state forests, particularly where such lines would be offensive to the view of the public in otherwise aesthetically pleasing surroundings. Additionally, the DNR had adopted the following policies with respect to utility companies and lines:

  • The DNR will require utility companies to make joint use of utility corridors whenever possible;
  • All utility lines in high use recreation areas and on other state land having high aesthetic, scenic, natural or historic values must be buried. All electric power lines up to 34.5 kV should be buried whenever feasible;
  • Proposed rights-of-way across state lands to extend utility service to private landowners shall be located wholly or partially on private property whenever possible. State land shall only be considered when the use of private property is shown to be unavailable by the developer.
  • Utility rights-of-way may be located well back from the road or trail so as not to disturb the natural beauty of surrounding areas. Exceptions would be for underground utility rights-of-way proposed to be located along roads or trails.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources Procedure 28.46-05 – Easement for the Use of State Lands; Easement Application for Utility or Public Road.

3-MI-b.8 to 3-MI-b.10 – Does the DNR Approve the Developer’s Easement Application?

If the DNR approves the developer’s easement application, the DNR will send the developer an invoice for the easement rights, damages, and vegetation consideration fee. The DNR may only grant an easement for a price at or above the current fair market value for such easement rights, as determined by the DNR. The DNR will not issue an easement to use state lands until payment has been received in full. Michigan Department of Natural Resources Procedure 28.46-05 – Easement for the Use of State Lands; Easement Application for Utility or Public Road.

3-MI-b.11 – Request Review of DNR’s Decision (If Applicable)

If the developer disagrees with the DNR’s decision not to issue an easement, the developer may contact the local land manager, Real Estate Services, or the land administrator to discuss the DNR’s decision.

3-MI-b.12– Easement to Use State Lands

If the DNR approves the developer’s application, the DNR will issue an easement along with any terms and conditions the DNR determines are just and reasonable. MCL § 324.2129. The easement will specify the construction, restoration, and maintenance conditions the developer must perform to ensure that the natural environment is protected and that unauthorized use of the right-of-way is not permitted. The developer may not engage in alternative means of construction, restoration or maintenance without specific written approval from the DNR. Easement Application for Utility or Public Road.

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