In what is being heralded as a major victory for thousands of lakefront landowners and the area in general, the federal agency overseeing management of Lake of the Ozarks issued a momentous decision Tuesday, upholding the rights of property owners and giving Ameren Missouri the right to redraw boundary lines to resolve ownership issues.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the redrawing of the boundary line for the Osage Hydroelectric project (Lake of the Ozarks) so that all private residences and commercial structures at the Lake of the Ozarks will now be outside the project boundary.
The order issued by FERC brings to an end months of controversy and fear for more than 1,500 homeowners and businesses who found themselves involved in a boundary dispute with Ameren Missouri.
Many in the lake area view FERC's decision as a landmark, not only upholding the rights of property owners but helping to clarify title issues.
The new boundary line was proposed by Ameren UE, the project licensee. It generally follows the 662 foot elevation except in some upstream areas where it follows higher elevations. The boundary of about 43 percent of the shoreline is already at 662 feet and would remain unchanged, except for carve-outs to ensure that existing residential and commercial structures are outside of the project boundary.
FERC's action removes approximately 28,000 acres from the project boundary, according to
Jeff Wright, director of energy projects at FERC.
For those landowners who advocated for the project boundary to be lowered to the 660' line, Wright said that was not an option. Wright said there were concerns over lake levels and possible flooding as well as maintaining the ability to manage the shoreline.
The proposal was submitted to FERC on January 31, 2012. The Commission established a 30-day comment period seeking public comment on Ameren’s proposal. All comments received were reviewed and are addressed in today’s decision. The order can be viewed online at http://www.ferc.gov/media/news-releases.asp
FERC's order stems from a requirement that Ameren develop a Shoreline Management Plan for the Osage Project. Shoreline management is a longstanding FERC initiative intended to protect the shoreline around all hydroelectric project reservoirs.
A Shoreline Management Plan manages the multiple resources and uses of a project's shorelines. Striking a balance between local economic interests and protecting environmental resources allows the public to enjoy those resources, and is vital for the long-term success of a SMP, according to FERC.
Ameren Missouri officials said they pleased with FERC’s decision. The decision resolves the issue of dwelling encroachments within the project boundary at the Lake of the Ozarks.
Under the new plan, the boundary has been lowered to an elevation of 662’ plus carving out below 662’ for existing dwellings and commercial structures.
Page 2 of 2 - Ameren Missouri will now move forward with filing Estoppel Certificates in the Recorder of Deeds Office(s) of Camden, Miller, Benton and Morgan counties. The document clarifies ownership and confirms that structures now outside the boundary are not in jeopardy.
“By working and collaborating with property owners, agencies and other key stakeholders, we developed and presented a viable solution to FERC,” said Jeff Green, supervisor of Shoreline Management. “We are very happy with the decision to allow us to lower the boundary. Today’s decision provides closure to the matter.”
In addition to filing Estoppel Certificates, Ameren Missouri will now focus on helping property owners understand the new plan.
Green said that Ameren Missouri has been and will continue being a good steward of the Lake, and throughout the process, the company’s primary goal was to redraw the boundary so that all identified encroachments would no longer be encroachments. The challenge was balancing the requirements of FERC license with the needs and concerns of the community and submitting a very comprehensive plan to FERC ahead of their deadline, he said.
FERC has regulatory authority over specific hydroelectric projects including Ameren Missouri's Osage Project in central Missouri. By law, FERC is charged with balancing power generation and non-power generation values when issuing hydropower licenses. FERC accomplishes this balancing by giving “equal consideration” to the wide range of public benefits provided by hydroelectric projects.