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Case against Morrow Dam operator will go forward

A view of Morrow Lake with a log and duckweed in the foreground and the glassy modern dam in the background.
Sehvilla Mann
The Morrow Dam as seen across Morrow Lake in November 2021.

An Ingham County judge denied Eagle Creek's motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the Michigan Attorney General's office. The suit seeks damages for the 2019-2020 sedimentation of the river.

An Ingham County judge says a case against the owners of Morrow Dam can go forward. Eagle Creek Renewable Energy was in court Wednesday arguing the case against it should be dismissed.

The company that owns the dam near Comstock Township claimed the Michigan Attorney General had no jurisdiction or legal basis to file the suit. But Ingham County Circuit Court Judge Clinton Canady disagreed and denied the company's motion.

The state is seeking compensation for damages to the Kalamazoo River, after Eagle Creek allowed as much as 400,000 cubic yards of sediment to flow into the river. Parts of the riverbed were buried in up to 12 feet of mud.

The sediment flowed out of the Morrow Lake reservoir during a prolonged drawdown that began in 2019. As a result, parts of the riverbed were buried in up to 12 feet of mud.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel filed the lawsuit against Eagle Creek and its subsidiary STS Hydropower in March, after the company abandoned cleanup efforts.

The suit claims the company created a public safety hazard, destroyed animal habitat, and restricted public access to the river. The suit was filed on behalf of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE), and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Updated: October 6, 2022 at 9:38 AM EDT
In an email statement received after the original story was filed, a spokesperson for Eagle Creek Renewable Energy said, "We were disappointed with the court's rulings, are reviewing them with our legal counsel and will consider our options."

Leona Larson (Gould-McElhone) was a complaint investigator with the Detroit Consumer Affairs Department when she started her media career producing and co-hosting Consumer Conversation with Esther Shapiro for WXYT-Radio in Detroit while freelancing at The Detroit News and other local newspapers. Leona joined WDIV-TV in Detroit as a special projects' producer and later, as an investigative producer. She spent several years teaching journalism for the School of Communications at Western Michigan University. Leona prefers to use her middle name on air because it's shorter and easier to pronounce.