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VA law prevents utility shutoffs in extreme circumstances; MI construction industry responds to a high number of worker suicides; 500,000 still without power or water in the Houston area; KY experts: Children, and babies at higher risk for heat illness.

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The House passes the SAVE Act, but fails to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in inherent contempt of Congress, and a proposed federal budget could doom much-needed public services.

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Enticing remote workers to move is a new business strategy in rural America, Eastern Kentucky preservationists want to save the 20th century home of a trailblazing coal miner, and a rule change could help small meat and poultry growers and consumers.

Tug-of-war for more access to IL streams continues

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Monday, June 17, 2024   

Federal law and Illinois law are at odds over ownership, access, and use of the state's streams, lakes & rivers - and the Legislature failed to pass a measure to deal with it.

A fraction of the waterways fall under Illinois law which permits public access. Federal law allows private ownership of most of Illinois' waterways.

House Bill 4708 - which saw little action in the 2024 legislative session - proposes that any lake, river, or stream that can support commercial or recreational activities should have open access.

The Illinois Environmental Council wants the bill passed. Council Land Use Programs Director Eliot Clay said he is optimistic lawmakers will hear the bill in the future.

"We've still got a ways to go in terms of passing this," said Clay. "We had gotten into the legislature this last year, and we definitely intend on bringing this back up. Especially during the next legislative session in 2025. There was pretty stiff opposition to this bill, especially from the agricultural communities."

There is a group of people who believe that if a river goes through somebody's property, the river is their property. Clay noted that previous legal cases have ruled otherwise.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources says the state has almost 88,000 miles of rivers and streams within its borders.

Currently, about 2% of Illinois' surface water is navigable for boating, fishing, and swimming.

Illinois Sierra Club Clean Water Advocate Mila Marshall said HB 4708 would increase the number of people who are invested in wanting to keep streams clean and healthy.

"So it makes it more accessible and clarifies the language that the water is available for all," said Marshall, "while also still recognizing that property owners still can have their private land protected, and they still own, at the riverbed, that the water that's moving across it is free and open to the public."

Marshall, who has a doctorate in ecology and evolutionary biology, said the Illinois Nutrient Reduction Loss strategy created in 2015 is key for cleaner lakes, streams and rivers.

The program outlines best practices to improve water quality by reducing nitrogen and phosphorus levels.





Disclosure: Sierra Club contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Energy Policy, Environment, Environmental Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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