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Security at state dams hinders tourism, business
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Security measures begun at the nation's major dams after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks are hampering tourism, fishing and scuba diving in Southwest Missouri.
Like airports and military bases, the U.S. Army enacted security procedures at dams under its control. Powerhouses have been off-limits to tours, security patrols have been increased and roads across some dams or near dams have been closed.
The people running the dams say the measures are precautionary.
The state has not issued any alerts, said Jim Alexander, chief engineer for the dam and reservoir safety program at the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
"These dams may look big to us, but we're told the terrorists are after big targets, like Hoover Dam," he said.
Missouri has more than 4,100 dams. In the event of a dam failure -- caused by man or nature -- Alexander said a "vast majority" of dam owners -- ranging from businesses to homeowners with backyard ponds -- do not have an emergency plan to detail how a disaster would be dealt with and how to notify the public.
"The law gives us the authority to require it, but it's not a condition for a permit," he said. "We may end up having to go that route."
Meanwhile, many are grappling with how to respond to the restrictions.
Divers have been kept away from a favorite diving spot near the Table Rock Lake dam since Sept. 11. If restrictions don't ease, Aquasports owner Don Peterson said he doesn't know what he'll do to replace the spot.