A bill meant to prevent another Taum Sauk Reservoir dam collapse passes the House, but some representatives say it’s an over-the-top reaction to an exceedingly rare event.
A breach in the Taum Sauk dam near Lesterville December 14th, 2005 sent a billion gallons of water down the mountain and through the Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park. The park superintendent and his family were seriously injured. The collapse could have turned into disaster had it occurred during the height of the summer tourist season when swimmers congregate at Johnson’s Shut-Ins.
Rep. Walt Bivins (R-St. Louis) sponsors HCS HB 159 . It defines a dam that would come under state regulation as one 35 feet or higher that holds back at least 50 acre-feet of water. It categorizes dams into various categories. One category is called "high hazard". Any dams that could put lives in danger if they break would be considered high hazard dams and would be inspected every three years. A dam that would cause property damage if it collapsed would be categorized as significant hazard dams and would be inspected every five years.
Any dam or reservoir that will be used for fireclay quarry reclamation or for agriculture would be exempt. That doesn’t satisfy Rep. J-C Kuessner (D-Eminence) who tells colleagues the legislature is over-reacting to the Taum Sauk collapse. Kuessner says Taum Sauk posed risks, because it is located on top of a mountain. He points out other dams are not and, even if they collapse, would do little damage. Also, Kuessner claims the bill will add $3,000 to the expense of building a dam or will cause landowners to build inferior dams to escape the regulations. The Senate now will consider the measure.