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December 27, 2005
Sierra Club calls dam failure "Catastrophic"
Requests investigation by an independent, bi-partisan panel

Noting that the Upper Taum Sauk Reservoir dam belonged to AmerenUE and was constructed and maintained by AmerenUE, the Ozark (MO) Chapter of the Sierra Club asserts that AmerenUE should accept all responsibility for hardships caused by failure of the dam and that the costs for damages and cleanup should not be passed on to consumers through rate hikes. Whether or not AmerenUE was legally “negligent” should not be a factor in reparations.

To this point, there has been much speculation of the cause of the failure of this dam: overfilling, improper fill, cracks, massive leaks and even an earthquake. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) has referred to the failure as an “environmental disaster” for Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park. The Sierra Club has offered to provide volunteer labor as assistance in restoration of the State Park, and MDNR/State Parks has accepted that offer.

The catastrophic failure has also exposed flaws in Missouri’s Dam Safety Act. It matters little to those downstream, when confronted with a wall of water, whether the dam was hydroelectric, 34.9 feet tall, or an agricultural dam. It is the position of the Ozark Chapter that the State of Missouri should inspect ALL dams that pose a threat to public health and safety or to this state’s natural resources and to have the authority to require necessary repairs and upgrades.

The Ozark Chapter asserts that the cause(s) of failure should be investigated by an independent, bi-partisan panel, noting that orders from FERC and the State of Missouri for AmerenUE to report on problems is “little more than AmerenUE investigating itself”. The Chapter also expresses concern about the relationship between brothers Matt Blunt, Governor of Missouri, and Andy Blunt, now a lobbyist for AmerenUE and, previously, the Governor’s campaign director, and that AmerenUE was a major contributor to Blunt’s gubernatorial campaign (while Andy Blunt was the campaign director).

“While it is critical to find out what went wrong, we don’t want AmerenUE or the State to gloss over the problems. We believe that objective information should be used to guide future inspection efforts. There are many other places at risk, the Dam Safety Act needs to be updated, and the inspection team needs to be fully funded,” stated Ken Midkiff, Conservation Chair of the Ozark (MO) Chapter, Sierra Club.