THE MISSOURI DEPARTMENT OF Conservation has filed a Federal lawsuit seeking US$3M in damages from St Louis-based utility AmerenUE for a fish kill earlier this year at Bagnall dam.

The department’s lawsuit seeks reparations from the utility for the deaths of 43,000 fish at AmerenUE’s dam on the Osage river. More than 20 fish species were affected but the rare species known as paddlefish suffered most dramatically. Paddlefish accounted for almost all of the total financial losses, the department said. The Conservation Department said it sued after AmerenUE filed a lawsuit in the US District Court in an attempt to prevent the state from seeking reparations for the fish kill.

AmerenUE’s lawsuit asks the federal court to declare that the Federal Power Act governs dam operations and supersedes the state’s authority to impose liability for damages for fish kill. The utility’s lawsuit also asks the federal court to bar the department from bringing any action against AmerenUE to enforce state fisheries law and to enter a judgment against the department for any costs AmerenUE incurs in the litigation.

Ameren has applied to FERC for a renewal of its current licence to operate the 43.6m high dam and Osage hydro plant. Ameren’s licence for the Osage plant expires in February 2006. Should the application be granted, the new licence is expected to be valid for a term of 30 years.