Residents live with flooding, mudslides during decades of disrepair at Oktibbeha County Lake Dam
STARKVILLE, Miss. (WCBI) – Monday, the Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors voted (4-1) to move ahead with plans to rehabilitate the Oktibbeha County Lake Dam.
The latest report from the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality says the dam remains in unsatisfactory condition.
“At home at night, you may think, ‘What if it bursts?'” says Brenda Jones, who says she’s lived in the area more than 60 years. “You don’t know what’s going to happen.”
It is a legitimate concern for Jones and anyone else living behind the dam’s levee.
“When we get a lot of rain, and you don’t know when that’s gonna happen, the water rises,” she says. “And of course, the water gets out, gets moving on to your property.”
“It could destroy a property or kill somebody if (the levee) fails,” says lake shore resident Dwayne Watkins.
Built as a recreational lake, the body of water should be an ideal spot for lake houses and vacation homes.
“The same month I closed on my house (July 2016), they started draining the lake,” Watkins says. “Because of the questions about the levee.”
According to MDEQ, the spillway is not large enough, the slopes are undersized and the emergency spillway is not installed properly.
They found the exact same problems in a report from 1979.
“After hearing the report from the Mississippi Engineering Group, the next step was then to authorize them to move forward with the design stage, which we did,” says District 3 Supervisor Marvell Howard.
Howard voted to move ahead with the rehabilitation of the dam even though he still has questions.
“I’m not sure if I believe the repair method is the best method to handle the problem out there,” he says. “These are just the things that we can see.”
Jones says efforts to repair the dam are long overdue.
“I was living out here before the lake was built,” she says. “When you could see the creek. Now you can’t see it…but it still exists and water comes flowing through it. So you’re not going to be able to get rid of it.”
Howard says the next step is for Pickering Engineering to work with MDEQ to develop and approve a plan before they can start accepting bids from local contractors.