Franklin lake project gets $2 million for infrastructure

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, November 14, 2001

A Franklin County lake project has received another boost in itsefforts to become a reality, Fourth District U.S. Rep. Ronnie Showsannounced Tuesday.

Shows said the Department of Interior Appropriations hasapproved a total of $2 million for Lake Okhissa, which is currentlyunder construction near Meadville. Of the total, $1.4 million hasbeen earmarked for continued infrastructure development and$600,000 has been set aside for expanding the county’stransportation system.

“The Franklin County lake project is a culmination of years ofhard work and planning by the people of Franklin County,” Showssaid in a statement announcing the funding. “The result will bejobs, recreation and economic growth. This is a project that willpay dividends for years to come.”

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State Dist. 53 Bobby Moak said officials at all levels ofgovernment – local, state and national – had been pursuing theproject for a number of years.

“The community has been working on this project since the1960s,” Moak said. “A lot of people allowed their property to besold to the federal government to make it a reality.”

Around 1990, Moak said, the state legislature assisted with theproject by approving a $1.25 million bond issue for roadimprovements. The lawmaker said that was the first money ever setaside for the lake.

“After the $1.25 million commitment by the state, Congress tookoff with it,” Moak said.

Gary Bennett, district ranger, also mentioned the years of workto keep lake project moving forward.

“We’re real pleased both the House and Senate were able to getthe money through and keep our project online,” Bennett said, whilealso mentioning U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran’s support.

Bennett said forestry officials have been working with theFederal Highway Administration and the Mississippi Department ofTransportation on getting the recreation area-related road workprocess started. He said the funding announced Tuesday would helpwith design and construction.

Other agencies are also involved in the lake project.

Bennett said there was a meeting Tuesday with Rural Developmentofficials to discuss getting water and sewer services online.

Also, Resource Conservation and Development representatives aretrying to form a coalition of southwest Mississippi people to bidon the recreation facility operation. Bennett said the recreationfacilities will be operated under a permit from the forestryservice.

“We want to work with some private enterprise that can operatethose facilities,” Bennett said, mentioning hotels, campgrounds,restaurants, a marina and other support services.

Meanwhile, construction on a $8 million dam for the lake iscontinuing.

“We’ll have the dam in place by next fall,” Bennett said, addingit could be completed earlier. “We intend to shut the gate andstart filling the lake next fall.”

Bennett estimated it would take about 30 months for the lake tofill.

“In that time, we’ll be working to get infrastructure in place:roads, power, water and sewer,” Bennett said.