JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) – Federal regulators approved changes Tuesday to Ameren Missouri’s boundaries at the Lake of the Ozarks, protecting 1,500 homes and businesses from possible removal.
There has been controversy in the past year focused on the land near the lake that is formed by a hydroelectric project now operated by St. Louis-based Ameren Missouri. Land included in the project falls under the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s authority. Other land does not.
Officials say the boundary changes approved Tuesday remove about 28,000 acres that are not needed from federal regulators’ authority. The new boundaries generally exclude land higher than 662 feet in elevation. However, land lower than that has been carved out in a few places to allow for existing homes and businesses. Other areas that include wetlands, historic sites and recreational areas will remain within the hydroelectric project and the federal commission’s authority.
The 93-mile-long Lake of the Ozarks was created in 1931 by the Bagnell Dam and Osage hydroelectric project that now is operated by Ameren Missouri. The lake is a tourism destination that attracts water sports enthusiasts and vacationers. Permanent residences and second homes have been built on shorelines.
The land dispute arose after Ameren submitted a shoreline management plan to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in 2008, noting that some structures had been built over the years on land that was part of the hydroelectric project. Regulators initially said most of those buildings should be removed, but after public outcry, in which some residents even skipped watching a World Series game featuring the St. Louis Cardinals to attend a community meeting, the commission directed Ameren to redraw the project boundary.
The commission said its initial decision only addressed buildings constructed on Ameren’s property without the utility’s permission.
Jeff Green, the shoreline management supervisor for Ameren, said Tuesday he is pleased the project boundaries were approved. He said making large-scale changes to the project boundaries was a “huge decision.”
“This should provide closure for many moving forward,” Green said.
The federal commission approved the plan Ameren submitted in January with a few minor changes, while giving the utility one year to report how it will handle structures such as gazebos, piers and boat docks that remain within the hydroelectric project. Green said Ameren likely will need most of that time.
Some had pushed for Ameren’s project boundary to be set even lower at 660 feet. Ameren and regulators said that would be too low, noting lake levels have risen higher than that several times.
Patsy Riley, who has lived in a ranch-style house at the Lake of the Ozarks for more than three decades, said even with the changes, part of her property remains “under an umbrella of uncertainty.”
“I’m not less frustrated as much as I am just feeling hopeless,” Riley said.
Two Missouri members of Congress praised the decision to adjust the boundaries at the Lake of Ozarks. Republican U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, whose current congressional district covers much of the land bordering the lake, said she is pleased homes were protected.
“While FERC’s decision is positive, some property rights issues at the Lake remain and I will continue to monitor the situation closely to ensure the rights of Lake-area property owners are not being trampled on,” Hartzler said.
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