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Ameren wants to rebuild reservoir; lawmakers bemoan delay

By Bill Raack & Marshall Griffin, KWMU

St. Louis, MO – Ameren UE says it wants to rebuild the Taum Sauk reservoir that collapsed 14 months ago. A section of the man-made hydro-electric plant gave way in December of 2005, releasing more than a billion gallons of water and destroying much of Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park.

In a filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Ameren says the plant can be rebuilt more solidly and operated safely again. Ameren spokesman Tim Fox says "We're confident that the design we've put forth is the way to go and it follows more than a year of study and analysis and countless tests of the bedrock and seismic stability of the area and we're confident we've got a good design to put forward."

Fox says if the utility can resolve pending lawsuits with the state over the collapse, work on the reservoir would begin this year with a goal of returning to service in 2009.

Meanwhile, lawmakers representing the area of the Taum Sauk reservoir are calling for Ameren to be held accountable by the state for the collapse of the upper reservoir in December of 2005.

The plan to rebuild the Taum Sauk reservoir is welcome news to Republican State Senator Kevin Engler of Farmington. But he's still frustrated that there's been no legal resolution following the collapse.

"We can't have all players playing it like a chess game, because the people of Reynolds and Iron county cannot be looked upon as pawns in this thing; we have to get going," Engler said Monday.

Democratic Representative J.C. Kuessner of Eminence says there's been a significant drop in tourism in the area since the collapse, which is cutting into local revenues.

Kuessner, Engler, and Senate President Pro-tem Michael Gibbons are calling on Ameren to rebuild the upper reservoir without raising electric rates.