A fisherman who took it upon himself to purposefully divert the Platte River using a shovel and rocks has been found guilty of one count of tampering and one count of vandalism.


Menace or (Fisher)man of the People?

The fisherman convicted on two misdemeanors is 63-year-old Grand Rapids native Andrew Blair Howard. His actions were in response to changes made by the National Park Service (NPS)'s decision to stop dredging the Platte River in 2017, inadvertently making it more difficult for fishermen and other boaters to access Lake Michigan due to the shallow water.


The Platt River in the Sleeping Bear Dunes before and after it was diverted.
Department of Justice


In the above photo provided by the Department of Justice, you can see the river before the diversion on the left, and the river after it was diverted on the right. He reportedly dammed the river after his boat got stuck while attempting to make it back to the lake. The damming led to the river flooding, to the delight of beachgoers and other fishermen who now had easier access to Lake Michigan.


Dredging Up Old Wounds

The investigation began in 2022 after the NPS received an anonymous tip that someone was seen daming the Platte River and digging out a channel directly into Lake Michigan. The move to stop dredging the strait has drawn conflicting opinions from the NPS and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).


Yellow excavator is making pile of soil by pulling ground up on heap at construction site, project in progress.


The NPS believes the dredging is damaging to the dune vegetation, while the DNR believes the lack of dredging has created a safety concern. Emergency vehicles have to travel farther as the nearest boat launch is in Empire and Frankfort, which are 6 miles north and 10 miles south, respectively.

Howard does not currently have a sentencing date.


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