AmerenUE and key state and federal government agencies in the US have announced a settlement agreement to relicense Bagnell dam and the Osage hydroelectric power plant. As part of the settlement, AmerenUE will pay US$1.3M to resolve outstanding litigation related to the 2002 incident of fish mortality at the dam.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) must approve the settlement, which has been signed by the company and by the US Department of Interior, representing Fish and Wildlife Services and the National Parks Service; the Missouri Department of Conservation; and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. AmerenUE expects FERC to rule on the agreement and on the dam and plant relicensing application by year-end 2005.
‘We believe this settlement agreement offers provisions that protect habitat and recreation, while allowing the plant to continue to operate efficiently and reliably,’ said Thomas R. Voss, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Ameren Corporation, the parent company of AmerenUE.
Completed in 1931, the 226MW Osage Plant and Bagnell dam created Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks – with the first federal license issued in 1926 and renewed in 1981.
AmerenUE filed the formal relicensing application with the FERC on 24 February 2004, requesting a new operating license for the dam and plant. The filing came after four years of discussion and analysis and included a 10-volume application, covering environmental, recreational, cultural and historic issues. The existing license will expire on 28 February 2006
The key provisions of the settlement agreement are:
• Relicensing for a low-cost, highly efficient, renewable energy facility for another 40 years, providing operational certainty and reliable energy supplies on demand.
• Increasing plant minimum flows seasonally to enhance lower Osage river fisheries habitat – by increasing these flows, downstream habitat and recreational opportunities can be protected.
• Retaining plant operating flexibility, so that the plant will be able to ramp-up power quickly and stop generating as quickly – to provide peak power needs, while enhancing the reliability of the electrical system.
• Adding two turbines that will increase plant capacity by a total of 15MW and allow the plant to generate more power using less water.
AmerenUE would also:
• Provide a barrier net upstream of the plant intake structures. This 30m deep, 335m long structure would isolate fish from the plant water intakes so fish could not pass into these structures. Testing and design of these fish protection structures will begin in 2005, with the advice of leading experts in the field.
• Provide US$175,000 annually to support Fish and Wildlife Service projects that protect and enhance the Lower Osage river – these projects include the restoration of mussel habitat and island erosion repair and protection projects.
• Provide US$134,000 annually to support the Missouri Department of Conservation’s stocking of fish in the area.
• Provide US$2.1M to be paid in annual installments of US$350,000 for the first six years of the license term to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources for general shoreline protection and to support erosion management projects around state parks – including the Grand Glaize and Pa He Tsi parks.
In addition, AmerenUE is paying the state agencies US$1.3M to resolve litigation issues related to an incident in 2002 when fish travelled through the plant’s turbine generators and became trapped on plant intake racks on the upstream side of the dam. In the months and years immediately after the death of these fish, AmerenUE worked with consultants and with state and federal resource agencies to evaluate and implement fish protection measures. Before and after the incident, the company also spent several million dollars to improve aquatic habitat, to support a fish hatchery and to stock fish at the Lake of the Ozarks.