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Frankfort man faces charges for ‘illegal diversion’ of Platte River

Before and after of Platte River
The before image (left) is a Google satellite shot of the Platte River from 2022. The after image (right) is a drone shot from the National Park Service immediately following the diversion in August.

After nine months of investigation, a Michigan resident is facing federal charges for illegally diverting the Platte River of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Last August, the National Park Service stumbled on a surprise: a new river channel at the mouth of the Platte had appeared, seemingly overnight.

Now, Andrew Howard, a 62-year-old man from Frankfort, has been charged with one count of tampering and one count of vandalism of the federally protected lakeshore.

The charges carry a maximum penalty of up to 6 months imprisonment, a $5,000 fine, and restitution.

In a May 24 press release, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan Mark Totten announced that his office filed charges against Howard.

“These allegations of tampering and vandalism by a man-made diversion of water at Platte River are disturbing,” Totten said. “The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and the Great Lakes are national gems, and my office takes preserving our natural treasures very seriously.”

The Park Service said it can’t comment on the investigation at this time, nor will it talk about the environmental impacts from the vandalism or plans to restore the river.

In an interview with WCMU from last September, Sleeping Bear Dunes park superintendent Scott Tucker said "leave no trace" is a key principle in his work.

We want visitors to be able to recreate on their own terms, but there's always an asterisk in that,” Tucker said. “If their recreation causes natural resource or cultural resource damage, then that's where we have to step in.”

Assistant United States Attorney Lauren Biksacky is prosecuting this case at the Grand Rapids U.S. District Court.

Teresa Homsi is an environmental reporter and Report for America Corp Member based in northern Michigan for WCMU. She is covering rural environmental issues, public health and Michigan commerce. Homsi has a bachelor’s from Central Michigan University in environmental studies, journalism and anthropology. During her undergraduate, she was a beat reporter for CMU’s student newspaper Central Michigan Life and interned for the Huron Daily Tribune. She has also interned for the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy in the superfund section. *Report for America is a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms, more info at
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