What Is the Legal Definition of ''Lake'' ?
In Nottolini v. La Salle National Bank, 335 Ill. App. 3d 1015, 1018-19, 782 N.E.2d 980, 270 Ill. Dec. 421 (2003), the court concluded that the term "lake" requires that the body of water be of natural origin and that, thus, a man-made quarry could not be considered a "lake." Nottolini, 335 Ill. App. 3d at 1018.
The Court also held that because riparian rights do not extend to artificial bodies of water, the plaintiffs had no rights in the quarry, which was man-made. Nottolini, 335 Ill. App. 3d at 1019.
Five years after Nottolini, the Illinois Supreme Court decided Alderson.
In Alderson v. Fatlan, 231 Ill. 2d 311, 318, 898 N.E.2d 595, 325 Ill. Dec. 548 (2008), the defendant Fatlan opened a sand quarry in 1966 on leased property located in Will County.
In the process of excavating the quarry, Fatlan unknowingly excavated across the boundary of the leased property and onto a piece of vacant land owned by the McElvain family. Alderson, 231 Ill. 2d at 313.
After Fatlan discontinued mining operations in 1974, the quarry was allowed to fill with water. Alderson, 231 Ill. 2d at 313-14.
Due to the excavation onto the McElvain property, some of the water extended onto the McElvain property. Once the quarry was filled with water, multiple homes were built around the quarry and it was used by the residents for recreational purposes only, such as swimming, boating, and fishing.
The record did not contain any evidence that any member of the McElvain family ever used the quarry after it was filled with water. Alderson, 231 Ill. 2d at 314.
In 1998, the plaintiffs, Robert and Wanda Alderson, purchased the McElvain property. Alderson, 231 Ill. 2d at 314-15.
Shortly thereafter, the Aldersons posted no-trespassing signs and blocked the pathway that surrounded the quarry where it crossed their property.
Following unsuccessful litigation in which Fatlan and the other surrounding property owners claimed adverse possession of the portions of the Aldersons' property that had been quarried and that contained the pathway, Fatlan and some other homeowners erected a cable fence along the Aldersons' property line where it ran through the quarry.
The fence blocked the Aldersons' access to and use of the quarry waters except those that lay above their property. Alderson, 231 Ill. 2d at 315.
The Aldersons then instituted an action seeking, among other things, a declaration that they had the right to the reasonable use and enjoyment of the entirety of the quarry's surface waters. Alderson, 231 Ill. 2d at 316. the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the Aldersons, finding that the quarry was, for all practical purposes, a lake, and because the Aldersons owned a portion of the lake bed, they were entitled under the rule announced in Beacham to the reasonable use of all of the surface waters. Alderson, 231 Ill. 2d at 316-17.
The appellate court reversed. Relying on Nottolini, the appellate court determined that the quarry was not of natural origin and, thus, was not a lake. Alderson, 231 Ill. 2d at 317.
The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed the appellate court, but on substantially different grounds.
Our supreme court considered "inadequate" the appellate court's analysis that a water-filled quarry is not, as a matter of law, a lake. Alderson, 231 Ill. 2d at 319.
The court noted that by having all of the physical and functional characteristics of a lake, an artificial body of water could, for all practical purposes, be a lake. Alderson, 231 Ill. 2d at 319-20.
The court further stated that because the water-filled quarry had been used exclusively as a recreational lake since 1974 and would continue to be used as a lake for the foreseeable future, it was a man-made lake. Alderson, 231 Ill. 2d at 320.