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. Located in some of the most spectacular Ozark scenery, the giant lake 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 and Guide and covered regional topics while a reporter for the Associated Press and an editor at St. Louis Magazine. She has been following the environmental situation of the Lake of the Ozarks for several years.
“Angel’s work challenges our preconceptions about nature, the relationship between humans and the environment, and the management of natural resources. In many ways, it is a classic example of the tragedy of the commons. However, the story of the Lake of the Ozarks is unique in ways that make it valuable for readers interested in the environment, Missouri, and the South.”
—Journal of Southern History, August 2015