Destruction won't affect local service, AmerenUE officials say

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Billing rates will also remain the same for the time being.

The breach of the upper-reservoir at the Taum Sauk Hydroelectric Plant near Lesterville will not affect local electric service, say officials at AmerenUE.

Jean Mason, AmerenUE's Southeast Missouri manager, spent the day surveying the afflicted area and says the damage caused by the breach is the issue concerning her.

"The breach did not cause outages," Mason said. "The flooding that came afterwards caused some outages in the Johnson's Shut-Ins park, but those were caused by downed poles."

The power generated by the Taum Sauk plant was not integral to local customers, providing only 440 of the 12,000 megawatts Ameren UE distributes in the region.

"The plant is only online during peak times," Mason said. Otherwise it fills in gaps. It's not one of our base-load plants."

Billing rates will also remain the same for the time being. These rates are regulated by the Missouri Public Service Commission. A rate-hike would require the commission's approval.

Even so, says Mason, this "small piece" of the electric puzzle wreaked quite a bit of damage when the breach occurred.

"The area is just completely devastated," she said. "You can see where valleys of trees were uprooted, and we could see the high-water marks at Johnson's Shut-Ins. It must have been a 20-foot-high wave."

"Usually the water level is stopped at 3 feet below the top of the, but it looks like it overflowed and washed away the rock and filler material," Rainwater said.

After the breach, 9 feet of the reservoir remained full, Rainwater said. That water was later drained.

The plant manager conducts a weekly inspection. Every five years Ameren hires an outside firm to conduct a more thorough inspection. The Chicago-based geological firm of Montgomery, Watson and Harza will arrive today to do an emergency assessment of the plant.

Ameren reports that in 2004 it made repairs to leaks in the side slopes of the Taum Sauk plant. Cracks caused a daily loss of 2 feet of water until Geo-Synthetics Corporation filled the seems with a new rubber lining.

Ameren Executive Vice-president Tom Voss says these repairs did not cause the breach. "The inspections all showed that the plant was OK," he said. "The facility is inspected on a regular basis and we saw nothing wrong; we've got to figure out why that is."

In Cape Girardeau, Lloyd Smith of Jo Ann Emerson's office stayed in contact with state emergency management officials throughout the day by satellite phone.

He reports that Lesterville endured less damage than might be expected at other times of the year. This is because the pool at Lesterville was at the lower, winter-pool level so it could absorb the 4- to 5-foot rise that resulted from the surging water, Smith said.

Smith also pointed out that this was the first time his office had contacted FEMA officials using satellite phone technology. There are now 40 satellite phones with FEMA personnel and first-responders throughout the region.

Smith contacted Mark Winkler, the State Emergency Management Agency's area coordinator for the 16 counties in Southeastern Missouri, who was at Lesterville this morning assessing damage.

tgreaney@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 245

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