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Great Lakes Article:

Landowner ordered to fill canal on his beach
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 spreads.

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 the contractor.

"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 shore.

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, he said.
"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 DEQ, however.
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.

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