UPDATE 7 p.m.
A Frankfort man is now facing charges, accused of dredging the mouth of a river at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
Federal prosecutors say Andrew Howard was charged earlier today with one count of tampering with evidence and one count of vandalism.
He is accused of diverting water at the mouth of the Platte River last summer.
Jim Telfer and his wife, Kathy, have been coming to this area for years.
“It was absolutely astonishing because, like, I don’t know how you think you’re going to get away with it. I’m not sure what kind of equipment he needed or whatnot, but this is a place that people know. They came out today to go bird watching,” said Jim.
“I think it’s kind of selfish of him also. It’s not his property. It belongs to all of us,” Kathy.
The Lake Township Board in Benzie County also weighed in today on the charges.
The board had been concerned the river needed to be dredged. Township leaders back then alerted the governor’s office and state lawmakers, saying the river hadn’t been dredged since 2016, making it harder for emergency equipment to get around.
A short time later, it appeared someone illegally dredged the river.
The Lake Township Supervisor, Jeff Johnson, said someone taking it upon themselves to take action was not beneficial to anyone, including the township.
“Someone who goes rogue, goes off, takes an initiative, frolic of their own doing this. They didn’t really help us in this case,” said Johnson.
Federal prosecutor, Mark Totten called “the allegations of the case disturbing”.
Jim Telfer agrees.
“The landscape here changes by itself. I’m sure this part of the river, its mouth has moved several times over the years. So one imagines that that that’s not going to have a long-term effect. And the short-term effect could be terrible,” said Jim.
Jim said regardless of the motives, it’s not ok. He said this place belongs to everybody.
“It’s just not the right thing to do. I mean, there are, there are rules and processes for a reason. You can’t just decide that you’re going to, you know, take something on like that,” said Jim.
The charges carry a maximum penalty of six months in prison, a $5,000 fine, five years’ probation, and mandatory restitution.
The U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan says they have caught and charged the man who illegally diverted the flow of the Platte River.
Andrew Blair Howard of Frankfort is charged with one count of tampering and one count of vandalism. It all stems from an investigation that started at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in August of last year.
The National Park Service made the decision to stop dredging the mouth of the Platte River in 2017 during a planning session. Opponents say that boats and rescue vessels have not been able to get through, creating a dangerous situation.
Law enforcement says Andrew Howard took it upon himself to dredge the river on Aug. 15, 2022.
“These allegations of tampering and vandalism by a man-made diversion of water at Platte River are disturbing,” said U.S. Attorney Mark Totten. “The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and the Great Lakes are national gems, and my office takes preserving our natural treasures very seriously.”
The charges against Howard carry a maximum penalty of up to 6 months behind bars, up to a $5,000 fine, up to 5 years’ probation and mandatory restitution.