Something to consider as we debate the wind turbine proposal for the lakefront is that the more easterly site that has been suggested—the spot near the ferry terminal—is filled land and thus is subject to the restrictions of the Public Trust Doctrine.
The doctrine is based on our state constitution. It requires that filled land—land retrieved from the lakebed—must be used for recreation and navigation only. The latter use includes docks, harbors, wharves, and other facilities described as “in aid of navigation.” A wind turbine is not a navigational aid and is not a legitimate use of filled lakebed land.
Some argue that because some electricity from the turbine would go to the port administration building, the turbine could be said to be “in aid of navigation.” We shouldn’t try to undermine the Public Trust Doctrine in this way. The doctrine is our lakefront’s best protector. It helped keep a six-lane freeway off the lakefront in the 1970s. More recently it helped to sink the proposal to berth a rusting warship here as a tourist attraction. It has defeated many wrongheaded lakefront proposals through the years.
We need to give the doctrine our strict interpretation and adherence. It is a major reason we have our rare, beautiful, open lakefront today.
The alternative site proposed for the turbine, the more inland site at the port administration building, west of S. Lincoln Memorial Drive, is not filled land and not subject to the Public Trust Doctrine. It is the only site we should consider.
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