Frankfort man convicted of tampering and vandalism for diverting river at Sleeping Bear Dunes
The U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan on Wednesday announced that a 63-year-old man was convicted for diverting the Platte River in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
Andrew Blair Howard of Frankfort was convicted on one count of tampering and one count of vandalism, both of which are federal misdemeanors.
In a bench trial, federal Magistrate Judge Ray Kent held that Howard “intended to and in fact did divert the flow of the Platte River into Platte Bay.”
According to a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice, National Park Service law enforcement officers investigated reports of a diversion of the Platte River near its mouth, which empties into Lake Michigan, in August 2022.
On Aug. 15, 2022, Howard used a shovel to dig rocks and sediment from the river basin and stacked large rocks in a dam to divert the river flow toward a newly-created channel leading to Lake Michigan, contradicting the National Park Service’s decision to let the river follow its natural course.
The natural flow of the water and the dam widened the newly-created channel to about 200 feet within a matter of days.
Howard’s diversion of the river also allowed large boats unauthorized access to Platte Bay.
“Mr. Howard had a policy dispute with the National Park Service and took matters into his own hands, breaking the law rather than using lawful means to advocate for his position,” said U.S. Attorney Mark Totten. “His actions resulted in significant financial and ecological harm and altered the landscape so many enjoyed. Today and always my office commits to protect Michigan’s natural treasures.”