Responding to the urging of state legislators, coastal municipalities, private property owners, and conservation organizations, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich announced in November that Illinois would begin the application process to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Coastal Management Program (CMP). Illinois had been the only coastal state in the U.S. not taking advantage of this federally supported planning and funding program, resulting in an annual loss of $1.5 – $2 million in coastal rehabilitation and improvement funds.
Illinois was actually one of the first states to attempt to join the program in the mid-1970s. In order to join successfully, the state must complete a coastal management plan in cooperation with shoreline municipalities. At that time, concerns by private property owners over local zoning control overshadowed the benefits that CMP would bring to coastal states.
Fortunately, this problem prompted clarification of how the federal program interacts with municipal zoning. Today, NOAA’s approach is clear: state and local policies governing shoreline management are given precedence in the development of a management plan. Congress actually amended the Coastal Zone Management Act recently to ensure federal consistency with local land use decisions.
To that end, the state of Illinois will soon embark on the application process, which is expected to take 2 – 3 years. Starting with a round of discussions with coastal municipalities, the state will work towards a coastal management plan that incorporates the special conditions of Illinois’ highly altered shoreline, while providing mechanisms for reducing sewage overflows, preventing beach closings, restoring natural areas, and enhancing public access to the coast.
Cities such as Highland Park and Chicago have taken steps over the last several decades to protect their valuable coastlines. Chicago’s Lakefront Protection Ordinance and the incorporation of natural habitat guidelines for coastal planning are helping the city grow into a sustainable relationship with the Great Lakes. Highland Park also has special ordinances governing coastal construction, and maintains a local lakefront commission.
Quoted in the Chicago Sun-Times, avid birder and 19-year Highland Park lakefront property owner Donnie Dann had this to say: “I see an enormous effect on my property values from having clean water and a better Lake Michigan. I think my neighbors feel the same way.”
For more information, contact Radhika Shah at firstname.lastname@example.org or 312-939-0838×6.