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The Scars of Project 459

The Environmental Story of the Lake of the Ozarks

Traci Angel

Publication Year: 2014

The Scars of Project 459 tells the environmental story of the Lake of the Ozarks, built by the Union Electric Company in 1931. At 55,000 acres, the lake was the biggest manmade lake in the United States at the time of its completion, and it remains the biggest in the Midwest, with 1,100 miles of shoreline in four different Missouri counties. Though created to generate hydroelectric power, not for development, the “Magic Dragon,” as it is popularly known because of its serpentine shape, has become a major recreational area. The giant lake, located in some of the most spectacular Ozark scenery, today attracts three million visitors annually and has more than 70,000 homes along its shoreline. Traci Angel shows how the popularity of the Lake of the Ozarks has resulted in major present day problems, including poor water quality, loss of habitat, and increasing concerns about aging waste management systems for the homes surrounding the lake. Many in the area, especially business owners whose incomes depend on tourism, resist acknowledging these problems. The Scars of Project 459 aims to make public the challenges facing this important resource, and ensure that its future is not to be “loved to death.” Traci Angel is a writer and editor who lives in Kansas City, Missouri. She is a former health reporter for the Jackson Hole News & Guide and covered regional topics while a reporter for the Associated Press and editor at St. Louis Magazine. She has been following the environmental situation of the Lake of the Ozarks for several years.

Published by: University of Arkansas Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

Thank you to H. Dwight Weaver for his ear, advice, photos, and overall knowledge of Lake of the Ozarks history and matters; Randy Miles, Tony Thorpe, Bob Broz, Dan Obrecht, and Jack Jones at the University of Missouri; Donna Swall for her access and availability to the Lake of the Ozarks Watershed Alliance; Caroline Toole, Cindy Hall; Bill...

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pp. xi-2

The Lake of the Ozarks is fairly young by lake standards. It formed in 1931 when the Bagnell Dam clasped the Osage River to fill the reservoir—an undertaking dubbed Project 459 by the federal government. Its design inks Missouri’s central map like a dragon tattoo, with a shoreline that sprawls into four counties with tiny villages snuggling up to its banks....

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1. Nature's Attraction

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pp. 3-8

The Lake of the Ozarks, and its more than 1,150 miles of shoreline, spring from a map like a vacation oasis in the landlocked Midwest. Many Missourians and Arkansas natives hold the lake amid their fond memories of summer getaways, fishing trips, and family reunions....

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2. History of the Lake

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pp. 9-20

Before there was a lake, there were the Osage Indians. They traveled along the river which now bears the tribe’s name, and climbed its surrounding bluffs stemming from the area’s roller coaster dips and valleys carved from erosion and land lifting. They wandered and inhabited the region’s cave systems. Many of the area’s names are taken from the...

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3. Sounding the Alarm

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pp. 21-36

Early-morning fog hugs the hills of the roads leading to the Lake of the Ozarks and Osage River valley.
Only a few boats will cut wakes behind them today. It’s January 2012, the off-season, and only the residents with regular jobs travel the highways that compose the lake’s main drag....

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4. Those Who Built on Ameren’s Land

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pp. 37-42

Perhaps no other issue more clearly demonstrates the example of what happens when heads look away from development than when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) asked Ameren for a shoreline-management plan, as part of its relicensing agreement in 2007....

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5. Impaired Waters–Yes, There’s Evidence

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pp. 43-56

On a mild fifty-degree day in January 1932, the Reverend Gentry Patrick led parishioners from his Baptist church in Roach, Missouri, to the cool wintry waters of the Niangua River. The group, dressed in their Sunday best, strode toward the docks of Niangua Bridge Camp that kissed the Lake of the Ozarks’ tributary. The group descended into the caramel-colored current and emerged reborn through the Christian tradition...

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6. The Land and Geological Factors

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pp. 57-64

To a person who is not a scientist, a lake might appear as nothing more than a large puddle of water. Under the wrong conditions, and with enough pollution, it could seem to take the form of a lagoon or a cesspool....

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7. Loving to Death

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pp. 65-68

In the fall of 2005, Lover’s Leap—that spot high above the Lake of the Ozarks with the view of converging Osage and Niangua Rivers—came into the news, yet its entry and exit were subtle....

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8. Documented Pollution Past

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pp. 69-82

Arlene Kreutzer once took boat rides across the lake and marveled at the trees, the open land, and water. She and her friends packed a picnic lunch and looked to the rocky bluffs and the inviting shoreline along the way to their destination. “Special places,” she calls them....

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9. Modern Effort for Water Quality

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pp. 83-96

Donna Swall flutters about among Camdenton area chamber of commerce members after a breakfast meeting, shaking hands and connecting people through introductions. She’s brought a tableful of volunteers from the Lake of the Ozarks Watershed Alliance, the group behind the modern-day push for the lake’s preservation. Among them is Mary Jo...

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10. Challenges in Regulating Pollution Sources

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pp. 97-104

Wesley Nyhaug is one of the responsible septic tank owners. He has made the lake his permanent home since 1998, and about ten years after he moved there he spent $10,000 to replace his septic tank.
It wasn’t mandatory. The other system had been there since 1972, and Nyhaug knew it was time for a new one....

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11. Lake Water Quality Gets Political

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pp. 105-116

Memorial Day kicks off the summer season at the Lake of the Ozarks. Families pile into their minivans and travel down from Interstate 70 that bisects the state ending in Missouri’s bigger cities. Boats hitched to sports utility vehicles weave through the hilly roads from Arkansas. Shops that barely got by on slower, local patronage await throngs of customers who come to the lake for getaways on water and sand....

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12. Other Regional Watershed Groups

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pp. 117-122

People in the Lake of the Ozarks need not look very far for examples on how to tackle water quality.
Watershed groups just south in the Springfield and Branson areas have organized over the last decade and can tell of success stories such as the James River basin’s ongoing community involvement and the water issues and challenges they face....

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13. Living Together—Activists, Homeowners, Policy Makers, and Proprietors

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pp. 123-130

One idea most people at the lake agree on, no matter their background, is that lake development is here to stay, and therefore water quality is likely to always be a concern.
The greatest populated area, Camden County, does have a planning and zoning commission with a long-range plan. Voters approved the organization, which formed in 1997. The entity has since looked at long-range plans for the district, which covers a designated area within about...

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pp. 131-132

The stars seemed to align for this book’s timing. Two thousand twelve— the year I did the majority of writing and reporting—marked the fortieth anniversary of the federal Clean Water Act. The year also noted the fiftieth anniversary of Rachel Carson’s breakthrough environmental book, Silent Spring. On a personal note, I gave birth to my daughter, who made her appearance on April 22, Earth Day....


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pp. 133-142


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pp. 143-152

E-ISBN-13: 9781610755412
E-ISBN-10: 1610755413
Print-ISBN-13: 9781557286567

Page Count: 135
Publication Year: 2014