For five years, Randy Stewart has wanted to expand his business. The 56-year-old Indian River man wants to take logs that have sunk to the bottom of lakes about 20 miles south of the Mackinac Bridge and sell them.

One of the stumbling blocks? The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality says that to be eligible for a permit he would have to provide GPS satellite coordinates for each log that he wanted to remove.

Stewart said he could remove as many as 60 logs a week. The logs are usually about 16.5 feet long and sometimes covered in mud at the bottom of the lake.

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“It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack,” Stewart said. “They are buried for the most part. You’ve got to find these logs.”

“That’s way, way over the top,” he said of the GPS mandate.

However, the DEQ may now agree with Stewart.

Mary Dettloff, spokeswoman for the DEQ, said that the state is going to change the requirement and no longer ask for the coordinate of every log.

To get to the logs under current requirements, Stewart said he would need permission of the landowner. He said he would also have to have a marine surveyor to survey the property. Dettloff said the DEQ does require surveys in certain situations.

The permit is $500.

Stewart, who owns Great Lakes Marine Construction, said once the logs are brought up, they can be used for furniture makers, cabinet makers and musical instrument makers.

“It’s not impossible,” Stewart said. “It’s just the government has to let go of some regulations. They can’t always get involved with everything all the time.”  

The original version of this story was posted online on Jan. 31, 2011.


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Ted Nelson is a retired Michigan State Police officer who trained police departments throughout the state on civil asset forfeiture. He believes the practice has been misused and needs to change.

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