Report says rebuilding reservoir a viable option

Thursday, January 11, 2007

ST. LOUIS -- AmerenUE's Taum Sauk reservoir can be repaired safely and doesn't need to be rebuilt, according to a report from engineers representing the utility's insurers. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch said the report by the Denver-based engineering firm URS Corp. and Houston-based Rimkus Consulting Group was filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in November and made public Monday.

The report contradicts design plans being pursued by Ameren.

The Taum Sauk reservoir housed a mountaintop hydroelectric plant in southeast Missouri until it burst in December 2005, spilling more than 1 billion gallons of water. No one was killed, but the park superintendent at nearby Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park, his wife and three children were washed out of their home and injured.

In February, Ameren consultants recommended that the utility focus on rebuilding the reservoir. Federal regulators agreed with that approach in a letter to the company last spring.

Ameren's chief executive, Gary Rainwater, has expressed a desire to rebuild the reservoir and restore the hydroelectric plant, but the company hasn't committed to doing so.

Company spokeswoman Susan Gallagher said Ameren must first resolve several issues with state and federal officials before deciding how to move forward. Those issues include a lawsuit filed against Ameren last month by Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon.

FERC spokeswoman Celeste Miller said it would be up to the agency to approve the design for a rebuilt Taum Sauk reservoir.

The report by Ameren's insurers says repairing the reservoir meets FERC and Missouri Department of Natural Resources requirements and "is significantly less expensive than the current rebuild option."

Ameren hasn't estimated the cost of rebuilding the reservoir. But the company has said its insurance policy will cover the cost, not customers. The cost is not part of Ameren's request before the Missouri Public Service Commission to raise electric rates in the state by $350 million.


Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, www.stltoday.com.

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