Regulators revise order for buildings at Lake of the Ozarks

Thursday, November 10, 2011 | 11:18 a.m. CST; updated 12:24 p.m. CST, Thursday, November 10, 2011

JEFFERSON CITY — Many homes and other structures built along the Lake of the Ozarks might be allowed to remain after federal energy regulators on Thursday revised directions for how to manage the shoreline.

Lakeside residents have feared they could lose their homes, patios and boathouses after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said in July that many structures might have to go if they encroach onto land that is part of the Ameren Missouri hydroelectric project that created the lake.

In its revised order, the federal commission directed Ameren to redraw its territory around the lake by June 2012 to remove unneeded land so that most homes and structures no longer are considered to be within the boundaries. For structures that interfere, Ameren was to work with landowners to find a solution to satisfy both sides. Federal officials said homes and other structures built on land for which the owners have a deed, lease or easement can remain and never were at risk of being torn down.

The chairman of the federal commission said in a written statement Thursday that the revisions should resolve all the outstanding issues and that Ameren was expected to move quickly to comply with the order.

The Lake of the Ozarks is a 93-mile long lake created in 1931 by the Bagnell Dam and Osage hydroelectric project that now is operated by Ameren Missouri, a unit of Ameren Corp. The lake has become a tourism destination for people living throughout the Midwest.

Ameren spokesman Mike Cleary said the power company was examining the 19-page order.

"We're pleased that FERC has acted on our request for rehearing, and we are studying the order in detail," Cleary said. "However, we cannot comment further until we have had additional time to review it."

Speaking to reporters on a conference call, John Katz, the deputy assistant general counsel for energy projects at FERC, criticized how development along the Lake of the Ozarks has been handled.

"Ameren, through its inaction, over the last eight years has needlessly raised public concern and has mistakenly led property owners to believe the commission has created the problem," Katz said.

There has been near panic among some living near the Lake of the Ozarks. Several hundred people skipped a critical World Series game last month to attend a community forum, and federal legislation was filed by Missouri's delegation in the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate that called for barring regulators from ordering the removal of homes.

Conflict arose after Ameren in 2007 submitted a required shoreline management plan to the federal commission. That plan noted that some structures had been built over time on land that actually belonged to the utility's hydroelectric project. The federal commission said that in most cases, the non-conforming structures should be removed in a timely manner and the site could be restored. Regulators said Ameren could propose allowing some homes to remain temporarily or could seek an adjustment in the property's boundaries for cases where removing the structure would pose a hardship.

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