Some residents of the Lake of the Ozarks area are confused.
How, they wonder, can a building practice that has been permissible for the past 80-plus years suddenly become prohibited by the federal government?
Their shared frustration has extended from the lake shoreline to the halls of Congress, where Missouri’s congressional delegation has asked federal officials to withdraw their edict.
Specifically, U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler — who represents central Missouri’s Fourth District — has proposed a bill to curb a federal agency’s authority over how the lake’s owner, Ameren Missouri, manages shoreline property.
By way of background, the lake was created by the construction of Bagnell Dam — built in the 1920s and ’30s — by Union Electric, the forerunner of Ameren and its subsidiary, Ameren Missouri.
Mike Cleary, Ameren Missouri’s communications executive, explained the utility owns a strip of land — ranging in width from two feet to one mile, depending on location — along the lake shoreline.
Private property owners who secured a permit have been allowed to build decks, gazebos and other structures on the strip, known as the project boundary. In addition, other structures have encroached — in whole or part — on the project boundary, as a result of surveying and other errors.
Ameren in 2008 renewed its license with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which required additional environmental regulations.
In connection with the relicensing, the utility also filed a new shoreline management plan.
The plan was approved with modifications, including a FERC requirement that Ameren remove any "nonconforming structures" encroaching on the project boundary.
Critics contend the mandate could require removal of nearly 4,000 structures, including seawalls, garages, decks and some private homes.
Cleary said Ameren officials envision some common-sense solutions, such as redrawing the project boundary. To that end, the utility sought and has been granted a rehearing on its plan. Ameren now awaits specifics from FERC.
In the interim, discontent among lake area property owners has prompted a grassroots movement and congressional involvement.
We understand and share their frustration.
Ameren has sought community input, has managed the shoreline competently for nearly a century and is willing to seek a compromise that satisfies both property owners and federal officials.
The FERC requirement appears to be another one-size-fits-all edict devised by imperious federal officials who never have set foot on the shoreline of the Lake of the Ozarks.
We encourage lake area property owners, Ameren officials and our congressional delegation to find a reasonable solution to this mystifying mandate.