The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has issued a new order that it says “sets the record straight” about a previous one, released July 26. Ameren said that earlier document would have required over 4,000 decks, docks, patios and homes be removed from property owned by the Utility at the Lake of the Ozarks.
According to the Commission, Ameren misinterpreted the July release. FERC states it has not required shoreline structures with valid deeds, permits and easements be removed. In a statement, Chairman John Willinghoff says he is confident the latest action will “bring clarity to residents along the shoreline of the Lake of the Ozarks.” He expects the utility to move quickly to comply with the Commission’s order.
According to FERC’s statement about the latest order:
Whatever property rights that owners have in lands within the boundaries of the Osage Project, whether conferred by deed, lease, easement or other conveyance, have not been and will not be altered by FERC’s actions today. Nothing in this order affects any previously issued valid permit authorizing a non-project use of project lands or waters.
For structures without valid deeds, permits or easements, Ameren must determine whether they interfere with the Osage project. If they do, Ameren must take some action, such as redrawing the boundaries of the project, so those structures no longer are sitting on project lands. This would put them outside of the project boundaries and therefore outside of FERC jurisdiction.
If any structure does interfere with the operation of the Osage project, Ameren and the structure owner must find a solution that satisfies both sides. Ameren itself has stated that after the project boundary is revised, it expects the majority of structures will no longer be considered nonconforming.
Much of Missouri’s congressional delegation has been very vocal about the issue since last month.
Of the Commission’s statement that there was a misinterpretation, Senator Claire McCaskill says, “You know, Washington’s famous for trying to blame the other guy, right?” She adds, “I don’t know that we’re going to gain a lot by figuring out who exactly caused this mess. I think we need to celebrate the fact that we’ve been able to get it cleaned up quickly.”
She will participate in a conference call with FERC and property owners today at 9:30 a.m. to discuss the latest order.
Legislation she filed along with Senator Roy Blunt sought to stop the Commission from forcing removal of those features. With this new development, McCaskill plans to work with her colleague to determine whether to continue with that or another bill.
In his own statement, Senator Blunt says:
“This situation is outrageous and needs to be resolved immediately for the people who have lived in houses and paid taxes on this property for years, and in some cases, decades. Amid the finger-pointing, it’s clear there’s blame to go around – but what matters is that we resolve this issue as soon as possible for these people who call the Lake their home. I will not stop working with my colleagues in the Senate and the House – both through legislative and potentially appropriation avenues – to ensure that happens.”
Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (R-4) sponsored a similar bill in the House, to that of Senators McCaskill and Blunt. She issued a statement saying the decision appears to back off from FERC’s earlier mandates, but calls it just the first step in securing the rights of Lake property owners. Hartzler says the latter order is “filled with ambiguities and leaves a lot of questions unanswered.”
The Commission wants Ameren to file its plan to modify the boundaries of its property at the Lake of the Ozarks by June 1, 2012. FERC has granted Ameren’s request for a re-hearing in the matter.
Ameren has withheld comment on the matter, saying it is still studying the new release.