- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 14, 2016

CLINTON, Ill. (AP) - On a Saturday or Sunday, particularly when striped bass are running, you’ll find fisherman standing nearly shoulder to shoulder below the spillway at Clinton Lake.

On nice summer days, boaters line up on roads leading to the ramps, passing signs warning against launching unless parking is available.

All that could change if Exelon Corp. follows through on plans to close the Clinton nuclear plant by June 1, 2017.

Exelon’s announcement earlier this month after the General Assembly adjourned without passing a nuclear energy subsidy plan has raised questions about the future of Clinton Lake, which was built as a cooling reservoir for the plant.

The plant closure decision can be reversed, but only under narrow circumstances, and a reversal becomes more difficult as time passes, according to Brett Nauman, Exelon’s communication manager for the Clinton plant.

While there are no definitive answers to questions about the lake’s future, one thing is certain, based on comments from residents and lake users: The lake itself and surrounding parkland are valuable recreational and economic resources.

People come from as far away as Chicago to use the lake, according to Greg Forrest, manager of the Clinton Marina.

Nearly all of the 226 slips at the county-owned marina are rented, with about 90 people on a waiting list for next year for slips that accommodate boats 32 feet long or less.

Forrest said the marina also has about 180 to 280 boat rentals a year.

The marina was donated to DeWitt County by the plant’s owner in 2003, along with nearly $400,000 for upgrades. The county recently put more money into the marina to add slips and make repairs and improvements to meet requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The water and land encompassing the 9,300-acre recreation area are owned by Exelon. The current lease between the state and the utility runs through Sept. 29, 2026, but can be terminated by either party by following certain procedures.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has declined comment on what might happen to the Clinton Lake State Recreation Area if the plant closes.

Clouding the issue is a requirement under federal law that when nuclear reactors are decommissioned, the area must be returned within 60 years to the conditions that existed before the plant was built. People are questioning whether that would require eliminating the lake.

“It’s a question that has been asked, and we’re looking into it,” said Nauman. “As the potential for closure becomes more and more real, the public is concerned about it and I understand that. It’s a great recreational resource.”

Nauman isn’t the only one without answers.

“I’ve had customers ask me (about the possible closing), but I don’t know what to say about that,” said Kayla Wilson, owner of Boondocks Grill. “It’s really scary.”

Boondocks is located in the Mascoutin area of Clinton Lake, between the beach and the boat ramp. It has a restaurant and also carries camping and picnic supplies, bait and tackle, ice and firewood.

Over Memorial Day weekend, from Friday through Monday, Wilson said she had 2,216 customers for food and ice cream - that doesn’t count those stopping in for bait.

One of her recent customers was Rick Langlois, commodore of the Clinton Lake Sailing Association, which hosts sailing races, family sailing days and educational programs.

Langlois said there is no other lake that fits the association’s needs like Clinton.

“The shape of it is really unique, giving us an opportunity to sail off many different points of the wind and develop good sailing skills,” he explained.

It’s not just a matter of taking over the lake and surrounding land that the state DNR is already managing.

“The lake has a huge dam with it. There is a liability with that,” Nauman pointed out.

Even if the lake remains, the closing of the nuclear plant will mean the end of warm water discharges into the lake. That draws people to the lake early in the year when other lakes are still at least partially frozen.

“Take that out of the equation, and it’s like any other lake,” Forrest said.

Nauman said a number of factors are involved in the ability to reverse the plant-closing decision.

Those factors include costs associated with starting the shutdown process, fuel purchase commitments, loss of skilled staff and lost of interconnection rights, according to Nauman.


Source: The (Bloomington) Pantagraph, https://bit.ly/26071lk


Information from: The Pantagraph, https://www.pantagraph.com

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