Argentine Twp. — On Lobdell Lake, to the dismay of neighbors and officials, a long and approximate 10-foot-wide bridge now connects Turtle Island to Whitehead Drive.
The structure, which lays atop the water, weeds and wetlands, prevents boaters from driving completely around the small island. One section of the bridge includes a drawbridge, but the placement would force boaters to drive through wetlands to use it.
The owner of the bridge and connecting properties, Brett DeGayner, did not apply for a permit from township or state officials to install the bridge. DeGayner uses the property on Turtle Island as a VRBO, which stands for vacation rentals by owners.
“He never applied for a permit from the township to do any alterations to the shoreline,” said Argentine Township Supervisor Brian Saad.
Saad went out to the property on Whitehead Drive last week to tell
DeGayner that he cannot put the bridge in. But, DeGayner started to install it Monday, July 8.
Saad and other township officials, including Argentine Township police, brought him a stop work order on Monday, but the bridge was put in anyway.
“It doesn’t look good for the lake. It doesn’t look good for the township. We’re hoping the DNR and DEQ can be persuasive enough with daily fines they’re talking about using,” Saad said.
DeGayner did not respond for a request for comment.
Christopher Clampitt, environmental quality analyst at the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE, formerly Department of Environmental Quality or DEQ), said EGLE has the authority to regulate structures in wetlands, lakes and streams under the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act (NREPA).
Clampitt confirmed that DeGayner did not apply for a state permit.
“There are a few exemptions in statute, but the installation of most structures in, over, or under a wetland or the bed of a lake or stream requires a state permit. Violations of these laws can result in civil or criminal penalties,” he said.
Under the NREPA, the violation could incur fines up to $10,000 each day it exists if a judge allows the amount. Clampitt learned of this bridge in late June of this year, and an Argentine Township official contacted him. He was notified late Monday, July 8 that the bridge was being installed.
“We are just beginning our investigation of the matter and so have not made any decisions regarding the proper course of action under the NREPA,” he said.