Man who diverted national park river to ease boat access to Lake Michigan is put on probation

Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore (Amber Ainsworth/FOX 2)

A man convicted of diverting a national park river to ease boat access to Lake Michigan was sentenced Tuesday to probation.

Andrew Howard was also banned from National Park Service property during the five-year period, including Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in northern Michigan where the incident occurred, prosecutors said.

"Mr. Howard had a policy dispute with the National Park Service over whether to dredge the Platte River. ... While Mr. Howard had the right to disagree and advocate for his position, he did not have the right to take the law into his own hands and force his favored result," U.S. Attorney Mark Totten said.

Howard was found guilty of misdemeanor tampering and vandalism during a brief trial in February.

In August 2022, a ranger witnessed Howard digging with a shovel. Within days, the government said, a new channel to Lake Michigan grew to about 200 feet (61 meters) wide, attracting fishermen.

The Park Service no longer dredges the river. As a result, sediment and sand build up, reducing the ability to get boats to Lake Michigan.

In a court filing, defense attorney Tony Valentine said the river had already been diverted by others when Howard moved some sand and rocks.

"Anything that Mr. Howard did, characterized as ‘enhancing’ the newly created flow of the river, was in reality insignificant," Valentine said.

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