A $177 million settlement has been reached to rebuild the Taum Sauk reservoir and restore the Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park heavily damaged in the late 2005 breach of the reservoir’s dam.

AmerenUE owns the Taum Sauk hydroelectric power plant. Spokesman Susan Gallagher says the settlement with the state clears the way for the rebuilding of the plant. She says the utility needs its generation to ensure reliable electric power. The power plant is expected to go back on line by 2009.

The settlement reached with the state is complicated. It has been signed by Ameren, the Attorney General’s office, the State Conservation Commission and the Department of Natural Resources. It is subject to approval by the Reynolds County Circuit Court.

The biggest chunk of money, $103 million, will go toward rebuilding Johnson’s Shut-Ins which took the brunt of damage resulting from the dam’s breach. The dam broke on December 14, 2005. A billion gallons of water burst forth and flowed down Proffit Mountain, knocking the home of the park superintendent off its foundations. The family suffered injuries, but survived. The flood heavily damaged the park which re-opened for limited use this past summer.

Money from the settlement goes to a number of agencies and projects. More than $69 million will pay for natural resources damages, including money for the state parks system, the Department of Conservation, an extension of the Katy Trail and educational programs in Reynolds County. The settlement also includes $2 million in compensatory damages to the state and $3.1 million to offset the cost of responding to the disaster.

Download/listen AmerenUE spokesman Susan Gallagher (:30 MP3)