Set the line at 660 was the call of some lakefront property owners who swarmed the gym at Lake West Christian Academy in Sunrise Beach the evening of Jan. 5 for Ameren Missouri's public hearing on its proposed changes to the Project Boundary.
Several individual landowners were asking Ameren to propose setting the Project Boundary at 660 feet above sea level.
Ameren's proposal includes revising the elevation-based boundary line around Lake of the Ozarks to 662 feet above sea level. In certain discrete locations, the line is proposed even lower in order to go around residential dwellings that would otherwise be within or partially with the Project Boundary. And in other places it would remain higher to allow for project facilities, public recreation sites, historic sites, sensitive resource areas such as wetlands and state parks.
At the heart of the problem is the belief by these landowners that their deeds show they own down to 660' and that they have been paying property tax to their respective counties based on that ownership down to the water.
For those reasons, in the minds of landowners such as Landon Chapman and Peggy Crockett, both residents of the Gravois Arm, the proposed revision is taking property away.
Other lakefront property owners also shared concerns about essentially losing control of their front yards. If they didn't own to the water, the concern is that the land from 662' down to the water could be used by the public without regard for the people living just above.
Ameren officials, however, spent over two hours at the Sunrise Beach hearing explaining to small groups and individuals that the proposal is actually shrinking the area of the Project lands, not increasing it.
"Nowhere is 662' an increase," Ameren's shoreline management supervisor Jeff Green said. "We have rights above 660' everywhere."
While a couple of feet in elevation may not seem that significant, Green explained that they needed at least up to the 662' to maintain normal operations at the dam.
The concern is possibly flooding and damaging residential dwellings due to operations at the dam. Data collected by Ameren regarding maximum lake levels over the years includes the waters rising as high as 665.45' in 1943.
And even since Truman Dam - another hydroelectric facility on the Osage River - was finished in 1979, the lake level has gotten as high as 664.31' in 1986, 661.75' in 1990, 661.53' in 1994 and 661.50' in 2005. And that list goes on. There were several years in which the data shows the maximum lake level was above 660'.
Ameren must also get this plan approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) through which Ameren is licensed to operate Bagnell Dam as a hydroelectric facility.
Green said FERC did not seem receptive to a plan that would place the Project Boundary at 660'.
Page 2 of 2 - FERC has expressed the environmental concern that the Lake of the Ozarks does not have enough vegetative buffer and has too much development, according to Green.
Without seeing each deed, Ameren officials could not comment on individual property owners' claims at the hearing, but did offer to review documentation and continue the discussion with individuals. Ameren officials have said the proposal does not affect existing land ownership or property rights.
The stated intent has been to revise the boundary to remove land not needed for normal operations of the dam and project purposes as spelled out by requirements from the Federal Power Act and FERC.
There is no standard elevation for the current Project Boundary, but does go up to as high as 678' in some places, according to Green.
Ameren held a hearing on this issue Jan. 3 in Osage Beach as well.
The proposed revision to the Project Boundary occurred as a result of a July 26, 2011 order from FERC in which it approved and modified the Shoreline Management Plan and also raised concerns about structures encroaching into the Project Boundary.
After a rehearing request from Ameren related to nonconforming structures and encroachments, FERC clarified its position with a new order in November that provided a framework for Ameren to revise the Project Boundary to resolve these encroachments by placing them outside Project lands.
Ameren is working to submit its proposal for revision in the first quarter of 2012. The FERC deadline is June 2012.