Landowner ordered to fill canal on
By Patrick Sullivan and Brian McGillivary
Traverse City Record-Eagle
Published September 25, 2005
TRAVERSE CITY - The state ordered a Grand Traverse Bay
waterfront owner to fill a 152-foot canal he dredged into
the Old Mission Peninsula without bothering to get a permit.
"This makes me sick, just sick, why do people do
this stuff?" said John Nelson, Grand Traverse baykeeper
for the Watershed Center, when he saw the canal scooped
out across the beach in front of a waterfront home off
Old Mission Road.
Dredged clay, sand and rocks line the sides of the canal
filled with water murky with sediment.
Nelson said fish habitat could be destroyed when the sediment
The Department of Environmental Quality ordered property
owner Stephen Levesque, of Burton, to fill the canal by
Oct. 11 or face criminal investigation. Burton purchased
the West Bay property in July 2004.
Grand Traverse County drain commissioner Kevin McElyea
said a neighbor tipped off his office about the canal
in August and he contacted the DEQ.
McElyea said Levesque refused to name the contractor who
dredged the canal, but Levesque, who owns a landscaping
business in Detroit, has been ordered by the DEQ to name
"We don't see too many like that," said Eric
Hudy, who works in the DEQ's land and water management
division in the Cadillac office.
In addition to the 152-foot canal, the property owner
also dredged a 15-foot channel in the water to access
the canal. Hudy estimated its depth at an average 3 feet
and its width at 8 to 10 feet.
He said he didn't know why the canal was built but assumes
it was to get a boat or personal watercraft closer to
Nelson said it appeared the owner was attempting to build
a small, private marina, and it appeared he intended to
make the canal larger so a larger boat could moor inside.
"When they do something like this, they are taking
a little bit of the natural environment from everybody
in Michigan," Nelson said.
McElyea said Levesque admitted to him he dredged the canal
and requested an after-the-fact permit from his office.
The county has no authority to issue a permit for work
below the ordinary high water mark.
Hudy said the DEQ would not typically issue a permit in
such a case. He said the agency sometimes allows dredging
of existing canals and channels but not new ones.
If the canal is filled there will be no fine or penalty,
"The main thing is we want to get the resource back
to where it was," Hudy said. "If they do that,
then it's a done deal."
The vegetation will come back, he said, and in a short
time it will look like nothing occurred.
If Levesque fails to respond to the DEQ's letter, the
case could be turned over for criminal investigation and
prosecution, Hudy said.
Levesque's troubles with regulators may not end with the
Jeff Fritsma, at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers office
in Grand Haven, said he plans to check the canal early
this week and his department could take action if the
canal is in the Great Lakes and therefore in federal jurisdiction.
"We just became aware of it and we're going to look
into it," Fritsma said.