The Federation has challenged Exelon, owner of Commonwealth Edison and the closed nuclear power plant at Zion, Illinois, in its attempt to block public beach access. The power plant is located between the north and south sections of Illinois Beach State Park. The park contains the largest section of pre-settlement dune and swale habitat found in Illinois, and is also one of the most visited public parks in the country.
Exelon recently built a security fence to extend eastward to the lake’s edge from the company’s northern and southern property line. The Federation contended in a November letter to the Department of Natural Resources that the fence illegally blocks public passage along the water’s edge.
“We’re all for securing the site,” said Cameron Davis, executive director of the Federation. “Not once, however, has any agency or company official refuted our claim that a fence on private property will accomplish as much as on public property.” The Federation claims that under the “public trust doctrine,” private property extends up to the ordinary high water mark of the lake and that the public should be allowed access to the Lake Michigan shoreline. The public trust doctrine provides that the bottom lands of the Great Lakes are held in trust for the public by the stakeholders. The DNR is expected to back Exelon’s fence construction.