Sometimes you need to let the powers of Mother Nature run their course organically. Man often tries to play God by taming rivers and creating dams, clearing land for farming and real estate, just to name a few things. But there are times when we're still smart enough to leave well enough, alone.

Unless you're Andrew Blair Howard, who diverted an entire river from its natural path, to dump straight into Lake Michigan. Now, Mr. Howard is in BIG trouble, and could have completely changed the shoreline of Michigan at Sleeping Bear Dunes Park.

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News outlets report that Howard, who is from Michigan, diverted the Platte River back in 2022. He allegedly dug a trench near one of the last bends on the river, then stacked rocks to "dam" the original path along the beach, and divert the flow straight into Lake Michigan.

The National Parks Service was NOT OK with this, and after nearly two years in court, he has been convicted of tampering, and vandalism.

What Makes the Platte River Unique

The Platte River has a strange way of flowing into Lake Michigan. It first goes through Platte Lake, then out toward the coast, but JUST before it reaches Lake Michigan, it takes a hard right turn, and runs parallel with the beach for about 1,500 ft.

So instead of a rushing flow of water directly out into the Lake, it creates a slower, swirling flow that turns into Platte Bay. This unique turn in the river deposits a large amount of sediment, and created a "spit" of sand - essentially a long sliver of a beach - between the river and the Lake.

What's Wrong with Diverting the River?

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources actually used to work with the Parks Department, and at one time, dredged the mouth of the river. They say it "Benefited the river by lowering the water level up stream," and helped rescue boats gain quicker access to the bay.

For nearly 50 years, they'd been making sure the mouth of the river stayed open so they could easily get in and out.

In 2017, the Parks Department decided to make some changes, as they were trying to rebuild the habitat for the Piping Plover - a regional species of bird that was on the rebound. They announced in 2017 they would stop dredging the mouth of the river, and let it take its natural course. Within a couple years, the "spit" had formed, and wildlife had returned to the area. It was also popular among beachgoers.
(In the Google Maps image below, taken this year, you can still slightly see the scar in the beach where Mr. Howard dug his channel.) 

Platte River Diverted
Google Earth

When Mr. Howard diverted the river in 2022, he went against a decision that had been legally made by the Parks Department, and nearly destroyed the strip of beach that was now home to several species of birds, including the Piping Plover, which is listed as an endangered species.

Within a couple days, the channel was huge, and allowed unauthorized access for large boats into Platte Bay, and Lake Michigan. U.S. Attorney Mark Totten said Howard was not allowed to take matters into his own hands, despite the policy dispute between the Parks Department and Michigan DNR.

"His actions resulted in significant financial and ecological harm, and altered the landscape that many enjoyed."

He was just convicted of the charges, but it isn't clear what his punishment will be just yet. Interestingly enough, Michigan DNR was already working with the Parks Department on a new plan to dredge the river that would still allow boat access.

Thankfully, though, the river has done its thing, and recovered naturally. The rocks were removed, and the sand spit is back like it used to be. but it's a shame when someone thinks they know better than what they're being told, without all the facts... all because he wanted to get his boat out on the Lake easier?

Suck it up buttercup, and go to the boat launch like any other person.

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