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Opinion: Table Rock Lake homeowners need protection from Army Corps

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Ever since Table Rock Lake began filling in 1958, land owners have been building permanent structures near the water. Now, 60 years later, the Army Corps of Engineers has changed boundary lines, adversely affecting these improvements, some of which are 60 years old.

These changes are affecting homeowners and businesses. I’m hard-pressed to see how these structures that have stood the test of time have now been deemed injurious to the lake and need to be removed before mowing and dock permits can be renewed or title to real property can be transferred upon sale.

Property owners are being required to remove essential structures such as retaining walls, steps and decks on their land. Again, we’re talking about retaining walls that have been there 40, 50 or 60 years in some cases. The Corps is denying homeowners and businesses necessary permit renewals for mowing or dock slips to try to force removal of these structures. The issue, however, is many of these structures are essential to these homes. Removing these structures, in some instances, would not even be feasible and, in some cases, would be impossible.

The most common complaint I get from homeowners is how many of these so-called “issues” were never issues in the past while permits were routinely approved by the Corps for decades. Property owners around the lake who purchased their homes years ago had no difficulty applying for permit renewals on a routine basis. Now, however, homeowners that are trying to update or sell their homes or apply for standard permit renewals are shocked to learn the Corps is requiring these essential structures be removed.

The Corps has their job to do, and over the years, they’ve done an excellent job of managing myriad priorities for the lake. Public relations, however, has never been their strong suit, and I’m always flummoxed as to why.

When the Corps comes to see me I always say, “How can I and my constituents develop a better relationship with you?” As one of one my predecessors, Congressman Mel Hancock, often said, “People should thank me more for the bills we don’t pass than for the ones we do.” With that caveat, it’s with strong regret that I believe the only common-sense solution to this problem, that affects so many of my constituents, is legislative action.

After months of discussions, I recently introduced a bill, H.R. 7126, that would protect homeowners on the lake from being forced to remove their existing structures. Specifically, this bill would grandfather certain structures that were in place before the finalization of the last Table Rock Lake Shoreline Master Plan in 1976. It also would guarantee the property owners the necessary amount of land to keep their structures and prohibit the Corps from taking these structures into account when issuing permits for their property.

As I’ve always believed, it makes no sense to force homeowners to remove these essential structures that have been in place for decades. The most commented-upon item in my Washington office is a simple sign that reads, “Bring Back Common Sense.” H.R. 7126 would be a common-sense solution that I will work hard to ensure is passed.

U.S. Rep. Billy Long, R-Missouri, can be reached at (202) 909-3744. His Twitter handle is @USRepLong.

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