WHAT OTHERS SAY: Oversight of Lake of the Ozarks power project best left with federal authority

Thursday, August 9, 2012 | 3:01 p.m. CDT

Let's not be too hasty about reducing federal control over hydroelectric power projects.

In response to a recent controversy about shoreline structures at the Lake of the Ozarks, U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler has proposed a bill that would transfer some federal oversight to state and local governments.

Although the concept has appeal, we have reservations about this specific proposal.

Previously in this forum, we have championed efforts, particularly on education issues, to devolve power from larger to smaller, more-efficient authorities.

We are concerned, however, that Hartzler's proposal is legislation in search of a problem. In addition, we fear the legislation could create added responsibilities and costs.

First, the controversy at the lake was resolved successfully.

By way of background, the Lake of the Ozarks is a hydroelectric power project owned by Ameren. The utility also owns a strip of land along the lake's 1,100 miles of shoreline.

After Ameren filed a new shoreline management plan with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the agency raised questions about "nonconforming structures," including privately owned buildings.

A revised plan largely removed the buildings in question but preserved federal oversight of wetlands, historic sites and recreational areas.

The revision quelled concerns and dissent.

We also are concerned about what state or local entities would inherit oversight under Hartzer's proposal.

Missouri does not have an energy department. The nearest match might be the state's Public Service Commission, which regulates rates, service and safety for investor-owned utilities, including Ameren.

The commission, according to the State Manual descriptions, also oversees "service territory issues."

If authority is transferred to local governments, uniformity issues might arise. The shoreline extends through four counties and a number of municipalities.

Creating, updating and enforcing shoreline regulations also will involve costs, which ultimately must be shouldered by state or local taxpayers.

As a rule, we favor state and local control over federal oversight, but Hartzler's legislation might prove the exception. We must hear more details about the proposal before we are inclined to support it.

Copyright Jefferson City News Tribune. Reprinted with permission. Questions? Contact Opinion editor Elizabeth Conner.

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