Last week, Representative of Missouri’s 4th Congressional District, Vicky Hartzler, reintroduced her bill ‘Leave Our Lakes Alone’. The legislation was previously introduced last session in response to a dispute between FERC, Ameren UE and lake area homeowners, but it died in committee. This time, Hartzler has help.
Freshman Rep. Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma has signed on as co-sponsor. In a statement, he pointed to FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, is regulating lakes “well beyond what the original federal laws and statutes gave them the authority to do”. Mullin represents two lakes in Oklahoma. Under the proposed legislation, FERC would still have oversight over power regulation. Shoreline authority and regulation would be turned over to individual states. For Missouri, and the Lake of the Ozarks in particular, this raises several questions.
Currently, there is no mechanism in place for shoreline regulation at the state or county level.
Ameren UE, in complying with the agreement reached with FERC, is now ‘diligently’ enforcing new shoreline ‘regulations’. These rules for citizens include the following changes, as reported by lakeexpo.com:
“From now on, Ameren Missouri will require permits for all pumps that draw water from the Lake; they will require land owners to get permission before removing vegetation below the 662 project boundary; they will more closely scrutinize seawall permits and will require new seawall projects to also include a blanket of riprap. They’ll also require fish habitat to be anchored under all new boat docks with 10 slips or more.”
All pumps – either hand, electrical or gas powered, new or already in place – must have permits. Bowen said although Ameren will not actively pursue enforcement action on hand pumps used for fish cleaning stations, they do require all other pumps to be permitted. The permit fee for a pump of 2 horsepower or less is $50; larger pump permits are $100. The intakes of pumps must include screens to protect wildlife and fish and those screen openings must be smaller than 3/32 of an inch. On pumps greater than 2 horsepower, applicants also must provide engineered, sealed drawings, specifications and pump curves – information that would typically come from engineers, who would use their seal to stamp plans, drawings and calculations that have been reviewed by them and conform to standards.
Permits have long been required for seawall construction, first through the Corps of Engineers and then by Ameren, which took over the permitting process. However, from this point on, the criteria for obtaining a permit will be slightly stricter. Bowen said Ameren will be inspecting the sites to determine if there is sufficient erosion to authorize a seawall – typically where there is more than 2 feet of vertical erosion. They must be installed within 3 feet of the eroded bank, they cannot be any higher than the eroded bank and they must be constructed of approved materials. As part of the SMP guidelines, all new seawalls require a 5 foot wide rip rap blanket, as measured going out from the seawall, as mitigation and to prevent undermining the base of wall. It can go as high as needed.
Bowen said Ameren also will be asking owners of existing, unpermitted seawalls to obtain permits.
“Ameren compares photos with permits on file to determine who does and doesn’t have a permit when a new request is made for a dock or other structure. However, at some point in the future, owners of unpermitted bank stabilization will be contacted and advised of the new requirement,” she said, adding that minor repairs are allowed without a permit. However, any extension, replacement, new footing, or increase in height or width would need a permit.
The rock used for riprap has to be large enough not to be washed away by wave action. Bowen said the standard is 8 to 12 inches in diameter but shoreline owners on or closer to the main channel may have to use 18-inch or larger material. Property owners will not be required to install rip rap along existing seawalls.
The permit for a seawall is $300 plus $1 per foot for every foot over 100. The same fees apply for existing seawalls. A permit for riprap is $100.
SHORELINE VEGETATION COVER
Vegetation between the 662-foot contour elevation and the water’s edge must be left in place or replaced if removed in order to provide a “reasonable” view of the water; construct access paths; install erosion control measures or perform general vegetative maintenance. However, all modifications must be approved prior to work being done because Ameren reserves the right to order the removal of any unauthorized improvements at the owner’s expense. When trees or other vegetation is removed, they must be replaced with native species – dogwood, redbud, serviceberry, persimmon, mulberry, native oaks, hickories, sugar maples and green or white ash. Grasses and perennials that can be used include big and little bluestem, Indian grass, switchgrass, fescue and any wildflowers, sedges and ferns native to Missouri. Vegetation modification permits are $100.
All docks must be built by a certified dock builder and must be permitted. In addition, all docks equipped with electric power must be inspected by either the local fire protection district or, in the case of the Village of Four Seasons, a building official, and an electrical permit must be obtained. A list of electrical installation requirements, a wiring diagram and a checklist for docks is available at http://www.ameren.com/sites/aue/lakeoftheozarks/Pages/DockElectricalInstallations.aspx. Permit fees, which are based on size, start at $150.
Bowen cautioned that people buying used docks should know their property boundaries, know whether the dock will fit inside those boundaries and whether boats will have sufficient maneuverability to get in and out of slips before making the purchase.
“If people are looking at a specific dock on something like Craigslist, they can bring their property description and the dimensions of the dock into our office and we can make a determination if it will be able to be permitted,” Bowen said.
New docks of 10 slips or more require fish habitat had to be installed. Anchored cedars, brush piles or man-made structures must be weighted with something that won’t deteriorate more quickly than the structure decomposes and they must be at or below the 647 elevation so they don’t float into boat motors or drift with lake currents. No structures should be placed in areas that already support emergent or submergent vegetation during the growing season. Commercial dock owners are required to sign and return the compliance certification to the Corps of Engineers verifying that they installed the structure as required. However, underwater pictures are not required.
In limited circumstances, dredging will be allowed under docks and to provide access to an existing channel in a cove. The permit cost is $300 and one cedar tree must be anchored under docks for every 10 cubic yards of material removed.
Bowen said each summer the Shoreline Management team inspects the shoreline to find such things as non-conforming structures, derelict docks and navigation hazards.
“When a permit is requested, part of our commitment to the Corps of Engineers is that we will send out an inspector for each permit request,” she said, adding that Ameren currently employs five representatives that review and process applications, and up to three inspectors if needed. “When property owners don’t comply with regulations, our first course of action is to make the property owner aware of the violation. If there is no response, Ameren will give a deadline to get into compliance. Meanwhile, no new permits will be issued until the permits are up to date. In the case of multiple violations, a history of non-compliance, or degradation to environmental resources, we will pursue legal action.” ‘
If Hartzler’s misnamed ‘Save Our Lakes’ bill passes, which it likely will with bipartisan support from Missouri’s Senators McCaskill and Blunt, the regulation of shorelines appears to pass directly to Ameren. This would put the homeowners of the Lake of the Ozarks at the mercy of Ameren, an energy conglomerate with extensive ties to Missouri’s State Legislature.
Recently, Ameren announced a $51 million dollar rate increase. They also introduced their newest corporate lobbyist: Kit Bond. This comes as State Senator Kehoe has introduced legislation that would allow the energy juggernaut the ability to charge for infrastructure before beginning construction. It is the fourth time in five years Ameren has hiked rates up on the citizens of Missouri. There is little to no opposition to these hikes.
Among State Legislatures, Missouri has developed a reputation for being awash with corporate funds and lobbyists. Ameren UE is a prime example of this corruption. Their ties to the Missouri political scene are extensive, and through a revolving door of politicians-turned-lobbiests, Ameren has had smooth sailing. The company, if Hartzler’s bill is successful, will have control of our lake shorelines with little opposition in the political system.
Many times the use of the word ‘inspection’ was used regarding Ameren’s description of the new regulations. It is no coincidence that in 2011, Chris Koster, Missouri Attorney General also used the word when talking about levels of E. coli at the Lake of the Ozarks. He made it clear, in this piece from the Jefferson City News-Tribune, that his office called for better ‘inspections of septic tanks and tougher enforcement for violators’. He also stated that he wanted significant violators to face felony charges.
Unlawful inspections, made possible by vague language, lie at the heart of Article 600, recently passed by the Camden County Planning and Zoning Commission. After the vote, which stunned the standing-room-only crowd, one member of the commission was quoted as saying the language was ‘state dictated’.
Earlier this year, the public rallied against Article 600 in a show of solidarity. They filled the court-house during a meeting on the controversial article, speaking out against ambiguous language, hefty fines and arbitrary inspections. They used the forum to point out many flaws in the language and repeatedly cited the Fourth Amendment to the Planning and Zoning Commission. Administrator Don Hathaway and his cohorts listened to their concerns and, after the outpouring, Planning and Zoning Chairman Jerry Carroll said: “You have done your due diligence in voicing your opinions here tonight, and we will go back to the drawing board again, and see what we can come up with and then we will schedule another public hearing.”
This was empty rhetoric.
After the rapid vote on Article 600 and meeting dismissal, one resident was quoted as saying: “It’s over and now we live in Russia.”
Hathaway and his technocrats, appointed to office, lied to the public. They had no intention of ‘going back to the drawing board’. They intended for the language to remain exactly as it is. What was evident in the wake of their decision to send Article 600 on to the County Commission, is an unwillingness to listen to the people. The next day, the Lake Sun ran a comment from Second District Commissioner Cliff Luber. He characterized the vote as “a clear decision against the people of Camden County”. Luber also said he believes the Planning and Zoning Commission has their own agenda in regard to planning and zoning.
Since the installation of Don Hathaway as Administrator of Planning and Zoning, “agenda” definitely seems an appropriate word. As Nancy Stewart has pointed out, private land owner’s rights are at risk with the decisions made by the planning and zoning board. She expressed disappointment in the decision.
Home owner rights are under attack from many different fronts, we are fortunate in Camden County to have so clear a road map to the source of our issues.
When Hartzler first introduced her legislation here at the lake, she did so at the Hulett home. State Rep. Diane Franklin introduced her, thereby offering her endorsement for the bill. Franklin, who now knows her way around our Jeff City hallways, has a history of working to undo our rights. She has been in favor of legislation restricting a woman’s right to health care. Her assault against women’s rights has been evidenced in her invocation of ‘religious’ grounds to stop doctors from performing certain procedures. She has voted to make it a crime to video tape puppy mills and corporate farms without the permission of the owner. That doesn’t bode well for Missourians as a horse slaughter plant has petitioned to open in our state and horse meat scandals erupt across Europe. She has endorsed countless pieces of ALEC inspired legislation that would move us closer toward privatizing our schools, ending worker protections and undoing the prevailing wage. On a KRMS radio interview, Franklin attempted to justify her stance against the prevailing wage by essentially saying that people in the lake area and the rural communities she serves don’t NEED to make that much money. She has supported legislation favorable to, you guessed it, Ameren.
Franklin has what can be termed as a friendly relationship with Presiding Commissioner Kris Franken. There can be no doubt that when it comes to matters of planning and zoning, those of shoreline regulation and the vague, ambiguous language and stiff penalties put forth by Franken’s technocrats favors moving us closer and closer to shoreline privatization. Language that is intentionally crafted to offer the most wiggle room sets the stage for a potential land grab. Through the use of heavy fines, as expressed to the P&Z commission, the mechanism exists with which to wage a campaign against a poor land owner. The article is fraught with loopholes built for abuse.
As was evidenced last year, during previous discussion of the changes to the land use code, Franken isn’t afraid to invoke the Camden County Sheriff Department. During a hotly debated exchange centered around home owner rights at a P&Z meeting, Franken slunk out of the room. Ten minutes later, two Camden County Deputies arrived. While someone could certainly make an argument that they were there to preserve law and order, a closer examination appears to say something different. On second glance it would appear as though a tyrannical threat was being made. In fact, one could go further and say Franken, in his best impression of Napoleon, hustled off when things got hot. The Little Dictator called in the Palace Guard to quell the shouts of the peasants. They, after all, don’t understand what’s on the line. They don’t know how much money there is to be made!
Nor has it been the only time the Little Dictator has used the Guard. When you fire as many people as Herr Franken, you expect to eventually get your come up-ins. When you pass articles, bills and legislation against the will of the people, you might make enemies. When you threaten our rights, we might get pissed.
Many of you might have seen our piece on ‘The Militarization of the Lake of the Ozarks’. The Palace Guard is well equipped to act as the enforcement mechanism for a tyrannical ruler. Particularly if it’s ruler is influenced by Ameren’s bottom line.
I have asked, many times, that we cast aside our hats. I have asked that we abandon their talking points and focus on what is going on around us. No longer is it hypothesis or conjecture. It is our reality. It is our community. They are bent on undoing that. They would rather we descend into civil war than unite in revolution. “We the people…”? Indeed.
I have been critical of Commissioner Luber. I will not back away from those criticisms. I do not agree with many of his stated views. I will however, stand together with him against these affronts to our rights. I will do so happily and without ego. I will do so with pride. When we the people are threatened, it is up to we the people to unite. It is not about being a conservative or liberal. It is about our basic, fundamental rights and our well-being. It is about our children and taking the mantles of power for those who would seek to harm their legacies.
This is about all of us and only a very few of them.
The time to stand is now.