Connect With Us
Partnerships Power Relicensing Negotiations for Missouri Hydro Project
by Georgia Parham
Lake of the Ozarks is known far and wide as a prime destination for anglers, boaters, and outdoor recreationists from around the country. Located in south-central Missouri, the lake was formed with the completion in 1931 of Bagnell Dam on the Osage River, part of the Osage Hydroelectric Project, now owned and operated by AmerenUE. While the lake offers more than 55,000 acres of surface water and 1,150 miles of shoreline for recreation, the presence of the dam and hydroelectric facility likewise offers a number of challenges to fish and wildlife resource managers, particularly in the Osage River downstream from the dam. Among the concerns are altered flow regimes, bank and channel erosion, impacts on aquatic habitats, low dissolved oxygen, fish mortality at the dam, and impacts to freshwater mussels including two endangered species.
These challenges were met early and head on by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Ecological Ser- Partnerships Power Relicensing Negotiations for Missouri Hydro Project vice field office in Columbia, Mo., as AmerenUE sought relicensing under the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Although the current license does not expire until early 2006, the Service and other stakeholders began working with AmerenUE in 1999, concentrating efforts on impacts to fish and mussels and fish protection in the lake. With the Missouri’s Departments of Conservation and Natural Resources, the National Park Service, the Service and AmerenUE worked together to develop a settlement agreement prior to relicensing that addresses concerns for freshwater mussels, habitat, and fish mortality associated with the project.
The lower Osage River supports populations of native Ozark stream fish as well as big river species, some of them of special concern, such as the paddlefish and sturgeon. The lower river is also the highest priority stream in the Osage Basin for mussel conservation and is among the most important mussel streams in Missouri. Thirty-nine mussel species have been found in the river, including two federally listed species (the pink mucket and the scaleshell), one federal candidate, four state-endangered, and several species of concern. The pink mucket population in the lower Osage River is one of the most significant in the species’ range and is the largest population west of the Mississippi River.
Through comments on AmerenUE’s Preliminary Draft Environmental Assessment of the project, the Service and its partners evaluated project mitigation measures proposed by AmerenUE and identified areas where more work was needed. The stakeholders and AmerenUE then began intensive negotiations toward a settlement agreement that would satisfy all major environmental concerns while providing for energy needs, protecting critical lake levels for recreation and addressing downstream landowner needs.
Resource Protection Measures to be Taken by AmerenUE Include:
· Improved stream flows and increased minimum flow in the Lower Osage River. This provides spawning flows, seasonal variations, and flows that will increase aquatic habitat for downstream species, including endangered mussels.
· Measures to reduce bank and channel erosion during flood flows.
· Improvements to fish protection, including a barrier net that reduces or prevents fish mortality due to turbine or dam operation.
· Funding to Missouri Department of Conservation for fish production for Lake of the Ozarks.
· Funding to the Service for administration and implementation of an aquatic habitat and species restoration and enhancement program that focuses on mussels in the Lower Osage River.
· A shoreline management plan to protect terrestrial habitat along the shore used by bald eagles for nesting and roosting.
· Increased dissolved oxygen levels in the lower river during project operation, enhancing conditions for mussels and fish.
FERC License to AmerenUE for Bagnell Dam (91-page PDF)