Corps lawsuit: Breach of 408-MW Taum Sauk fouled Clearwater Lake

The Corps of Engineers has filed suit against the operator of Missouri’s 408-MW Taum Sauk pumped-storage project, saying the 2005 failure of the project’s upper reservoir dumped sediment and debris into the Corps’ Clearwater Lake.

The Corps’ Little Rock, Ark., District filed suit Dec. 12 in U.S. District Court at Cape Girardeau, seeking damages from Union Electric Co. of St. Louis, doing business as AmerenUE, the hydro project licensee.

The Corps said it wants damages and other relief from AmerenUE’s negligence in operation of Taum Sauk (No. 2277) that led to failure of the reservoir. (HNN 11/3/08) The Corps said reservoir failure released an unknown amount of sediment and debris into the Black River and Clearwater Lake downstream.

The Corps claims the sediment significantly reduced Clearwater Lake’s storage capacity, reducing the project’s life span. The Corps also claims it incurred, and will continue to incur, costs and expenses associated with surveying, studying, and remediating due to increased sedimentation.

A Corps spokeswoman told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch the lawsuit was filed two days before a statute of limitations expired, preserving the Corps’ right to pursue a claim.

AmerenUE did not agree with the Corps’ arguments.

�We are not aware of any evidence that sediment resulting from the breach has had any impact on Clearwater Lake’s operational capacity,� AmerenUE spokeswoman Susan Gallagher said. �In fact, our studies show the breach had little or no impact on the lake’s operational capacity.�

The Corps already is performing major rehabilitation at Clearwater Lake Dam, in Wayne and Reynolds counties. Clearwater Lake Dam was identified in 2007 as one of six Corps dams with a high risk of failure. (HNN 10/7/08) The Corps awarded a $93.3 million contract in 2008 for a concrete cutoff wall to control seepage and eliminate the risk of sinkholes.

AmerenUE’s license to operate Taum Sauk expires in 2010; the utility filed a relicense application in June 2008. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in October the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission acted properly in ordering reconstruction of the reservoir.

Taum Sauk has not operated since the reservoir’s ring dam breached, releasing 1.4 billion gallons of water down the Black River, injuring nine people, and damaging property. A Missouri Public Service Commission probe cited a failure of utility management for the breach.

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