In a 1989 ruling involving a houseboat rental business on the Lake of the Ozarks, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals found that the Limitation of Liability Act only applies to vessels which are used on "navigable" waterways, as that term is defined for purposes of admiralty jurisdiction, and that the Lake of the Ozarks was *not* navigable for that purpose.
Despite this clear ruling, there appears to be an effort to change the classification of the lake.
The following excerpt is from a PDF form found on the U.S. Corps of Engineers website titled "APPROVED JURISDICTIONAL DETERMINATION FORM" that is apparently a request to have the Lake of the Ozarks designated as "navigable". Oddly, the requesting entity is not named on the form, and is dated July 1, 2011.
A key description in the form is a checkbox alongside the following statement:
"Waters are presently used, or have been used in the past, or may be susceptible for use to transport interstate or foreign commerce.Note the years on the referenced supporting declarations of 1904 (pre-Bagnell), a time when serious efforts were being made to use the Osage River for commerce, and 1931 the year Bagnell Dam was completed.
Explain: 33 CFR Part 329, Declaration by Congress that the Osage is navigable in 1904, and 1931 LO Navigational Determination"
The form continues with the following description:
Identify TNW (Traditional Navigable Water): Lake of the Ozarks.
Summarize rationale supporting determination: The water body is presently used, or has been used in the past, or may be susceptible for use (with or without reasonable improvements) to transport interstate or foreign commerce. An Act of Congress dated March 4, 1904, declared the Osage River navigable. The authority is laid out in the 1931 LO Navigational Determination. The Federal Power Commission determined on June 4, 1931 that "the pool or lake formed by the Bagnell dam is navigable waters of the United States. The provisions of Section 10 of the River and Harbor Act, approved March 3, 1899*, therefore apply to it and the erection of structures within the margins of the lake can be legalized only by the Secretary of War on plans recommended by the the Chief of Engineers of the Army." Further, a letter dated July 21, 1931 from Major General Lytle Brown, then the Chief of Engineers, to the Division Engineer of the Upper Mississippi Valley Division also indicates, under paragraph 3., the following:
"Since the stream was a navigable waterway prior to the construction of the project and all land lying withing (sic) the limits of the project was subject to the right of eminent domain for the reason that it would be necessary or convenient for the development of navigation, it appears logical to conclude that the water flooding the land must be navigable water of the United States." Extent of authority was established to be "at the south line of the southwest quarter of the southwest quarter of Section 15, Township 40 north, Range 22 west, in Benton County, Missouri. This line is approximately 89.3 lake miles above Bagnell Dam, and approximately 0.3 lake miles downstream of the U.S. Highway 65 bridge crossing the Osage River at Warsaw". The Kansas City District Regulatory Branch has determined that the contiguous reach of Lake of the Ozarks extending upstream from lake mile 89.3 at the Section 10 upstream authority limit, Osage River mile 171.0, to approximately lake mile 92.8 at Harry S. Truman Dam is a TNW."
* The River and Harbor Act basically prohibited the building of dams along navigable waterways of the U.S. without the permission of U.S. Congress.