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Attorney General Nessel Announces Relocation of Sunk, Abandoned Nuisance Barge in Leelanau County

LANSING – Last night the twice-abandoned barge owned by Donald Lewis Balcom, owner of Balcom Marine Contractors of Traverse City, was towed from the location where it was illegally sunk and remained for over two years. 

Mr. Balcom first abandoned the barge in Grand Traverse Bay near Greilickville, Michigan, Leelanau County in 2020. At that time the barge sunk onto the bottomlands, became partially submerged, and released oil into the lake. In 2021, after being ordered by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) and the U.S. Coast Guard to move the barge, Mr. Balcom had it towed to a new location in Grand Traverse Bay just off the shore in Northport, where he abandoned it a second time. The barge once again sank onto the bottomlands which left the barge approximately 20 feet from the end of a private residential dock.

In June 2023, the Attorney General Dana Nessel’s environmental crimes unit filed criminal charges against Balcom, including a felony charge for the release of hazardous substances (oil) to waters of the State, as well as misdemeanor charges for trespass, marine safety violations, and placement of fill material (the barge) on Great Lakes submerged lands without a permit.

"I brought this action because the Great Lakes are a priceless resource for all Michigan residents. Removing the barge from the State's bottomland is a step in the right direction," Nessel said. “I am grateful for the work of my department’s environmental crimes unit and our partners at EGLE for their continuing efforts to protect our natural resources.” 

“EGLE is encouraged to see the barge being moved and a plan for repairs to be made.” said EGLE Director Phil Roos. “We will be monitoring the barge to ensure it complies with all state environmental laws.”

Continued efforts by the Attorney General’s environmental crimes unit and EGLE since the criminal case began resulted in the barge being moved and no longer in apparent violation of Michigan’s environmental laws. Although the criminal case is ongoing, the Attorney General will work with EGLE to confirm the final location of the barge and to ensure that it is stored in a safe and legal way. 


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

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