Advocacy at

Save the Dunes

Regional, State, & Federal


Save the Dunes works to address many threats to our local environment including shoreline erosion, invasive species, water pollution, development pressures, and even the public's right to access the beach. We use our decades of on-the-ground experience along with partner and community support to advocate for much needed public funding, proactive and defensive policies, and reasonable laws and regulations that ensure accountability and protect our local environment while also building shared sustainable solutions to each threat.

We have long upheld the interest of the public along the Lake Michigan shoreline and the Indiana Dunes. In addition to participating in direct advocacy and lobbying with political representatives, private companies, and community leaders, we educate and encourage our communities on how they can be effective advocates for conservation in our region.

Defenders of the Public Trust

One of the important public interests we have advocated for and
defended for many years is the Public Trust, which is the public’s
right to freely access and use the shoreline of Lake Michigan in Indiana. The Public Trust Doctrine is a legal principle that Lake Michigan’s shoreline
exists for the public’s benefit and cannot be privately owned or
used. Save the Dunes has defended this doctrine and continues to
represent the public’s right in court when needed to keep our
beaches accessible to all.

Pollution Prevention

Save the Dunes has long been an advocate for clean and healthy water in our region. In 2020, we developed a Water Pollution Prevention Plan to chart the course towards establishing a “culture of pollution prevention” in Northwest Indiana. The Plan led to the creation of a Water Pollution Prevention Roundtable with representatives from non-profit stakeholders that convene on a regular basis to exchange information on current events, identify gaps in knowledge, and contribute to comments on NPDES permit renewals, non-compliance violations, and emergency events. In addition, the Plan identifies the importance of continuing to increase our technical capacity, and developing a robust relationship with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

Cleveland-Cliffs Environmentally Beneficial Project Reporting Results

As a result of the August 2019 ammonia and cyanide discharge and resulting fish kill from the ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor facility (now Cleveland-Cliffs Burns Harbor LLC),  a consent decree was finalized with the federal and state governments and the Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC) and Hoosier Environmental Council (HEC). The settlement included compliance requirements, financial penalties, and two environmentally beneficial projects, or EBPs, that the facility must undertake. 

Learn more about consent decrees, what happened at this facility, and what Cleveland-Cliffs must do as a result in our factsheet.

One of the environmentally beneficial projects requires Cleveland-Cliffs Burns Harbor to perform weekly monitoring for ammonia and cyanide from June-September in 2022 and 2023 at locations in both the Little Calumet River and Lake Michigan. These reports are submitted to Indiana Department of Environmental Quality (IDEM), Environmental Law and Policy Center, and Hoosier Environmental Council. In addition, the consent decree requires the results to be posted on a publicly available website, which has been selected to be Save the Dunes. 

Ask a question or raise a concern by submitting a Cleveland-Cliffs Community Inquiry Form or calling 1-866-477-3355.

Other Facilities

U.S. Steel Midwest is also carrying out an environmentally beneficial project, required under a consent decree resulting from the 2017 Hexavalent Chromium spill from US Steel's Midwest Plant Facility in Portage, IN.  The project requires water quality testing and reporting from seven Indiana shoreline locations along Lake Michigan. Click below to see the monitoring results on their website.