OSAGE BEACH, Mo. (AP) - The utility that manages the Lake of the Ozarks has proposed a boundary change of just a few feet to resolve recent controversy over homes, boathouses and other structures built on its shoreline.
On Tuesday, Ameren Missouri held a public session to unveil a revised shoreline management plan that the utility says should spare most of the 1,600 homes that at one point were threatened with possible removal.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in November directed Ameren to redraw its territory around the lake to remove unneeded land. Those November instructions also revised a July order from the federal agency that structures may need to be removed if they encroach onto land that is part of the Ameren Missouri hydroelectric project.
The utility's proposed plan, released in mid-December, calls for a lake-wide boundary at 662 feet above sea level plus additional adjustments "as needed" to remove all residential dwellings from utility-owned property. It still requires approval by the federal agency, which has set a June submission deadline.
"What's happened is an accumulation of 80 years' worth of development, misrepresentation of deeds that didn't take into account our ownership," said Jeff Green, Ameren's shoreline management supervisor. "When these people say they have a deed to their property, they do, but it doesn't affect the original ownership.
"Now we're dealing with fourth-generation, fifth-generation property owners. I don't think it serves any good purpose to require removal of these properties. It makes a lot of sense to revise the boundaries and get these structures out of harm's way."
The central Missouri lake was formed by a dam built in 1931 and now owned by St. Louis-based Ameren. On paper, the existing boundary ranges from 665 to 670 feet. The project boundary is an elevated strip of land surrounding the sprawling lake's shoreline.
Green said the utility plans to grant individual legal titles to owners of "nonconforming" buildings removed from the project boundary but still within an Ameren easement.
Despite Ameren's assurances, some homeowners remain concerned that their property could still face legal entanglements.
Tony Vaccaro, 67, recently retired as a Mitsubishi Motors district sales manager. He and his wife, Margaret, who previously lived year-round at the lake, have spent weekends and holidays at a second home in Camden County near Ha Ha Tonka State Park for the past decade and plan to permanently relocate from St. Louis.
After reviewing a hotel conference room full of maps perched on easels and grabbing a stack of documents related to the revised boundary, he cautioned that two further steps are needed to put him at ease: FERC approval and the necessary legal documents from Ameren to support their verbal agreements.
"What are my property rights?" he said. "I want to build on my property. I don't want to build on their property."
The boundary flap started in 2008, after Ameren filed a required shoreline management plan with federal regulators. By late last year, Missouri's two U.S. senators and eight members of Congress weighed in, proposing legislation and amendments in response to the controversy.
Ameren is accepting public comment on its plan through Jan. 15. Once those comments are in hand, the utility plans to submit an updated proposal by March, or sooner. A second public workshop is scheduled for Thursday in the town of Sunrise Beach on the lake's western shore.