As promised to voters last year, Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler continues to pursue legislative action that could lessen the control the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has on Lake of the Ozarks.
The legislation, called the Leave Our Lakes Alone Act, was introduced in March. Hartzler is currently working with the Chairman of Energy & Power Subcommittee Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-TN) to get a hearing on the bill.
The bill was proposed by Hartzler in response to FERC's 2011 decision that placed more than 1,500 homes and other lakefront structures in danger of possible demolition. In the ensuing debate, Ameren Missouri proposed and was given authority to revise the project boundary line surrounding Lake of the Ozarks.
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 approving the boundary revision removed approximately 28,000 acres from the project boundary.
As the final step in addressing the issue of dwelling encroachments at the Lake of the Ozarks, Ameren has recommended FERC allow 215 non-conforming structures to remain within the project boundary.
According to Ameren officials, the homes under the original FERC order, were in jeopardy of being ordered removed from project lands . The whole purpose of the revision was to revise the boundary so homes were no longer on federally regulated project property. This revision coupled with further clarifications of title allow continued occupancy, enjoyment, possession and transfer of the lands that are now no longer in the boundary.
It isn't just on Lake of the Ozarks that Hartzler believes FERC is overstepping their authority. It is happening on other lakes where dams provide hydroelectric power.
Hartzler said local land use and zoning have long been governed by local government, as common sense tells us that the people who live in an area should be able to decide what their neighborhood should look like and how restrictive their building ordinances should be. Hartzler’s Leave Our Lakes Alone Act (LOLA), gives each state the choice to opt out of all shoreline regulations other than those governing power regulation. If a state legislature enacts a law opting out of FERC’s additional shoreline regulations, then the state or local government could institute any regulations they see fit for their hydroelectric lakes’ shorelines, so long as they do not impact power regulation. If a state is comfortable with the way FERC currently regulates its lakes, then nothing would change and FERC would go on regulating that state’s lakes as it currently does, she said.
According to Hartzler, energy regulation is both FERC’s mission and expertise. Its jurisdiction over the Lake of the Ozarks comes entirely from the fact that the lake’s dam contains hydroelectric turbines that generate electricity. Many believe FERC’s energy experts are very proficient at regulating hydroelectric power generation. However, revisions to the Federal Power Act in the 1980s and ‘90s expanded the agency's mission to make it a nearly all-encompassing regulator over hydroelectric lake shoreline development, regardless of whether or not the shoreline development impacts the turbines in any way. FERC now regulates things as broad and vague as “scenic beauty,” “aesthetic values,” “recreational values,” and “fish spawning grounds.” This expansive regulatory authority goes far beyond FERC’s mission and expertise.
Page 2 of 2 - Hartzler believes FERC’s oversight should be restored to its core mission — regulating energy production — not dictating home construction and recreation.
• On July 26, 2011, FERC issued an order to Ameren Missouri approving and modifying our proposed Shoreline Management Plan for Lake of the Ozarks. In that order, FERC raised concerns about encroachments to the project boundary.
• Ameren Missouri reviewed the order and on Aug. 26, 2011 filed a rehearing request on certain provisions related to non-conforming structures and encroachments.
• FERC responded on Nov. 10, 2011 with a second order. It clarified FERC’s previous position and clearly provided a framework for Ameren Missouri to propose a project boundary change to be submitted for FERC approval.
• Ameren Missouri hosted two public workshops in January 2012 to seek input from resource agencies and the public regarding proposed boundary changes to help resolve the project boundary.
• On Jan. 31, 2012, Ameren Missouri filed a plan with FERC to resolve the issue of encroachments within the project boundary. That plan proposed lowering of the boundary to 662 feet plus carving out below 662 feet for existing dwellings.
• On June 5, 2012, FERC approved Ameren Missouri’s shoreline boundary revision – lowering the boundary to an elevation of 662 feet plus carving out below 662 feet for existing dwellings. In addition, Ameren Missouri moved forward with filing Estoppel Certificates in the Recorder of Deeds Office(s) of Camden, Miller, Benton and Morgan counties. That document clarified property ownership and confirmed that dwellings located on Ameren Missouri property but outside the project boundary were not in jeopardy.