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Attorney General Nessel Charges Owner of Abandoned Lake Michigan Barge

LANSING – Today, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced criminal charges against Donald Lewis Balcom of Traverse City, owner of Balcom Marine Contractors, over his abandonment of an industrial barge in the waters of Lake Michigan off the coast of Leelanau County. 

Nessel alleges that Balcom first abandoned the barge in 2020 on Lake Michigan bottomlands near Greilickville, Michigan. The barge became partially submerged and released oil into the waters of Lake Michigan.

In May of 2021, after state and federal authorities intervened, Balcom agreed to tow the barge to a proper location, but then abandoned it again directly in front of a residential property off the shore of Northport. The barge sunk on Lake Michigan bottomlands close to shore, approximately 20 feet from the end of a residential dock.

“The Great Lakes are treasured natural resources that are central to our way of life in Michigan,” Nessel said, “They are not a dumping ground or a junkyard for abandoned vessels.  I will always take action to protect the Great Lakes from the threat of pollution, and to preserve them for future generations.”

The charges against Balcom are brought by the Attorney General’s environmental crimes unit, and include a felony for the release of hazardous substances (oil) to waters of the State, as well as misdemeanors for trespass, marine safety violations, and placement of fill material (the barge) on Great Lakes submerged lands without a permit.


Please note: A criminal charge is merely an allegation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. The Department does not provide booking photos.

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