The Hydroelectric Project: Get the Facts.

Thousands of property owners along the Lake of the Ozarks are facing the prospect of having to tear down all or part of their homes, decks, gazebos and patios after learning they were built on land that belongs to Ameren Missouri’s Bagnell Dam and Osage hydroelectric project.

The Federal Energy Regulator Commission, an agency that regulates the lake, the dam and the hydroelectric plant, has issued an order stating that all of the so-called nonconforming structures must be removed. The structures include 1,200-plus residences.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that ( Ameren has asked the federal agency to reconsider.

Roy and Karen Walker, from Columbia, Ill., have been left scrambling for answers after learning their condominium is among those too close to the shoreline.  “How can you buy a home, pay taxes on it, take care of it and have someone say you don’t own it?” Karen Walker said. “It seems like a bad dream.”

Ameren, then known as Union Electric Co., created Lake of the Ozarks in 1931 when it completed the 2,500-foot Bagnell Dam impounding the Osage River. The project powers the Osage hydroelectric plant.

Since the 1980s, the utility has managed the shoreline under federal oversight. The Amy Corps of Engineers oversaw shoreline development for the first 50 years.

As required, Ameren submitted a master plan to FERC in 2008 for managing the lake and its shoreline in the face of continued development. The plan makes clear that Ameren knew at the time that thousands of structures, some dating back 75 years or more, were built on utility land or easements. Some of the structures — homes, docks, gazebos and patios — were built before any restrictions or formal permitting procedures were in place. In other cases, they may have been improperly situated, the plan said.

Ameren proposed redrawing the project boundary to exclude as many structures — in particular homes and condos — as possible.

On July 26, FERC issued a 28-page order approving the plan with one major change, requiring Ameren to remove the 4,000-plus structures that sit too close to the shoreline and within the boundary of the Bagnell Dam project.

Ameren sought a rehearing last month. Others backing the request for a rehearing include chambers of commerce from counties bordering the lake, banks, title companies and both of the state’s U.S. senators.

FERC declined to discuss the situation because it is the subject of a potential rehearing.

“There’s no time clock running as to when they must act,” agency spokesman Craig Cano said.

Already, uncertainty caused by the property ownership questions and FERC’s order is having consequences. Neighbors of the Walkers are hesitant to make improvements to their homes because they worry they won’t be able to sell.

“It obviously creates uncertainty and apprehension in a tough economy, and that’s the last thing we need,” said Gregory J. Gagnon, CEO of Central Bank of Lake of the Ozarks, the area’s largest community bank.

In a letter to FERC, Gagnon said the uncertainty “could plunge the real estate market at Lake of the Ozarks into turmoil by casting a cloud on the value of lakefront property.”

No one’s sure how long it will be until FERC will issue a final order.


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