"We have not had an opportunity to review the legal filing and cannot comment on it in any detail. However, we are disappointed over the filing of this lawsuit," says Gary L. Rainwater, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Ameren. "We have been meeting with representatives of the state since April with the goal of reaching a negotiated settlement, and we hope that this does not mean negotiations will cease. We have made a very significant offer to settle all liabilities--the largest such offer in state history to our knowledge. Yet despite our good faith efforts, we have not yet received a unified offer from all relevant state agencies. Failure to resolve the state's claims in a timely fashion will delay rebuilding of the Taum Sauk facility, with negative economic consequences for the citizens of Reynolds County and the rest of the state of Missouri."
Despite today's legal filing, the company cites significant progress on the eve of the one-year anniversary of the Dec. 14, 2005, failure of the company's Taum Sauk Hydroelectric Plant. That Dec. 14 breach of the plant's upper reservoir sent 1.3 billion gallons of water into the Johnson Shut- Ins state park, causing significant damage to the park and injury to a family of five, who recovered.
In addition, in coming days, the company will announce a protocol for soliciting recommendations for use of $5 million for project enhancements at or near the Taum Sauk facility. AmerenUE agreed to set up this fund as part of its settlement with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) of all liabilities associated with the failure of the plant. The company is aware that several individuals and agencies have prepared applications and intend to submit those directly to FERC. In order to ensure that all recommendations are considered, the company will set up a single address for the collection of recommendations.
All recommendations will be considered for inclusion in a final plan that will be submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission staff on Feb. 28. The deadline for submitting recommendations is Feb. 1.
AmerenUE has already invested more than $20 million in the clean-up and restoration of Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park and in the improvement in water quality in the Black River, following the plant's failure. In addition, the company has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to provide promotional support to tourism-dependent businesses in the Taum Sauk Plant area through an aggressive advertising program and creation of a dedicated tourism Web site\- www.experienceblackriver.com.
"Since Dec. 14, we can point to enormous progress in restoring the park," says Rainwater. "We have greatly appreciated the tremendous support from the people and businesses in communities surrounding the park\-from the many local workers who have provided their knowledge and skills, to the many state officials who have worked side-by-side with our own employees and those of our contracting firm\-MACTEC. Their kindness, decency and strong support have made a real difference."
Rainwater added that the company has always accepted full responsibility for the effects of the Dec. 14 breach, quickly enlisting the help of a number of experts. AmerenUE has worked closely with local, state and federal agencies to determine the cause of the incident and the steps for repairing the damage to the state park and the Black River. Some of the accomplishments of state and company representatives assigned to the project include:
Park Restoration: With the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Ameren staff and contractors immediately began working to remove soil and trees from roadways, parking lots, trails and other areas of the park.
• More than 100 Ameren and contract employees removed tons of soil and hundreds of felled trees. These dedicated people used vacuum devices and their hands to restore the "fen" --- a unique and sensitive area of forested wetlands. They also used heavy equipment and shovels to remove 15,000 truckloads of sand, mulch and other materials from the park. They cleared and rebuilt roads, walkways, the boardwalk and picnic areas. Crews also rebuilt parking lots, the historical cemetery and camp office and store.
• Work was completed by Memorial Day weekend to allow the park to open for day use for the summer of 2006.
Water Quality Initiatives: The goal of much of the restoration effort has been to prevent additional sediment from entering the Black River and any bodies of water feeding into the Black River.
• As a first step, crews lowered the water level of a six-acre pond formed from water deposited by the reservoir breach. Lowering the water will help prevent future natural high water events from washing silt into the East Fork of the Black River.
• A January 2006 treatment of the lower reservoir with materials (alums) used to cause the fine suspended clay particles to clump together and drop to the bottom. However, the initial treatment only temporarily kept these particles from going into the East Fork of the Black River and muddying that river. The water level of the reservoir was then dropped to remove in-stream silt by using high natural water flows to flush the river.
• In the last few months, AmerenUE temporarily drained the lower reservoir to remove all exposed sediments. As part of this effort, the company pumped the East Fork of the Black River around the reservoir to provide a clean source of water downstream.
• The company also conducted additional grading activities within the park and constructed overflow channels to prevent fine particles from re- entering the river. Areas within the park were stabilized and hydroseeded to prevent on-going erosion.
• AmerenUE also restored the capacity of the Bin Wall to trap silt and reduce the silt flow into the Black River by removing over 80,000 cubic yards of material from the river.
• The company continues to work on restoration of the river and the shut- ins.
"In addition to our restoration efforts, we are committed to establishing structures, systems and policies that guard against anything like this ever happening again," says Thomas R. Voss, chief operating officer and executive vice president of Ameren. "We've initiated programs and established action plans to do just that."
As part of these safety initiatives, the company:
• Created a dam safety program with a highly experienced civil engineer as its chief dam safety engineer. The program has included development of an updated dam inspection plan and implementation of site-specific safety and instrumentation training.
• The chief dam safety engineer has the authority to conduct unannounced facility inspections and to take necessary corrective action when dam safety is threatened\-including the issuance of a stop work order for operational activities and plant shutdowns. Acting as a single point of contact for state and federal regulatory officials, the chief dam safety engineer is working with a group of highly experienced engineering professionals\-including consultants-- all with expertise in dam safety. This team has created new safety and instrumentation training modules, documented and assessed the current inspection program before developing an updated safety inspection plan for all AmerenUE hydroelectric plants, and implemented a site safety and instrumentation training effort.
After considering the "lessons learned" from Ameren's own investigation of the Taum Sauk incident and from the extensive report from an independent expert the company commissioned to examine the cause of breach, the company has also:
• Established an independent quality assurance team to review and strengthen operational processes and procedures throughout the generation system. The team analyzes engineering plans, looking at best practices and processes and implementing recommended changes.
• Reexamined the safety procedures at all of company facilities, including emergency action plans. The company is also evaluating the training of all employees in safety and operations to insure they fully understand the signs of possible plant failure, and that those occupying critical jobs are fully equipped both in their knowledge and skills and in support from others to handle the responsibilities of those jobs.
Built in 1963, AmerenUE's Taum Sauk is a "pumped-storage" hydroelectric plant. It stored water from the Black River in the upper reservoir, built atop 1,590-foot-high Proffit Mountain, and released the water to generate electricity when power is needed. The plant employs 12. The water flowed down a mile-long tunnel inside the mountain, turning turbine-generators to produce electricity. When power demand was low, the same turbines ran in reverse to pump water back to the upper reservoir.
AmerenUE is a subsidiary of St. Louis-based Ameren Corporation. Ameren companies serve 2.4 million electric customers and nearly one million natural gas customers in a 64,000-square-mile area of Missouri and Illinois.
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