• 73°

Lake work in full swing

BUDE — Officials from around the state gathered Tuesday toobserve construction at the area’s biggest lake, Lake Okhissa.

The 1,000-acre lake project is in full swing at the HomochittoNational Forest, and officials are excited about the progress.

“They’re off to a very impressive start,” said United StatesSenator Thad Cochran, as he viewed the area of forest land beingcleared for the lake.

Much of the area has already been cleared, with the exception oftrees and other vegetation that will be used to create fishhabitats in Lake Okhissa.

Franklin County supervisors who checked on the lake’s progressTuesday were impressed by how quickly the land has been cleared.They also talked of how important Lake Okhissa will be to FranklinCounty and surrounding counties once completed in 2005.

“It’s going to be a good shot in the arm for southwestMississippi, not just Franklin County,” said Chancery Clerk JimmyJones.

Lake Okhissa, a Choctaw word for porter, is being constructedaround Porter Creek, which will also feed the lake. It will be thesite of water sports, with over 300 acres for water skiing. Around700 acres will be reserved for calmer activities, such as fishing,said Homochitto Public Affairs Officer Mary Bell Lunsford.

The lake will also provide a chance to decrease the unemploymentrate in the area by providing more jobs while also creating morerevenue for southwest Mississippi.

“It’s a great opportunity for recreation and economicdevelopment in this area,” said Cochran.

Jobs have already been created for local residents in theconstruction area. Even senior citizens have been able to benefitfrom the employment opportunities. Senior Community Service Programemployees are working on the construction of the observation area,said Lunsford.

The observation area, which will be open to the public nextweek, will allow people to oversee the construction of the lakefrom a high ridge that will house a gazebo and walking trails.

“The Forest Service will provide a safe place to observeconstruction of the dam being built for the lake on recreationarea,” said District Ranger Gary Bennett.

It will be located on road #149, just off Highway 98,approximately three miles south of Bude. Signs will be posted alongHighway 98 to help observers find the area. The public is notallowed in any other area of work during the constructionperiod.

Area residents are excited about having the chance to watch asthe dream of creating a large lake on the Homochitto NationalForest becomes a reality. The idea for Lake Okhissa began surfacingover 40 years ago.

“It’s something we’ve needed for a long time,” said DistrictFive Supervisor Charles Freeman.