Pickering gets look at Franklin lake project

Published 5:00 am Friday, August 16, 2002

BUDE – U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering got his first look Thursday at amajor project in the state’s new Third Congressional District.

“It’s very impressive,” Pickering said as he discussed theOkhissa Lake project with U.S. Forestry and Franklin Countyofficials. “It’s a tremendous natural resource.”

Pickering said the recreational lake project is a tribute topatience, persistence, leadership and hard work. There is a 40-yearhistory of local support and efforts to get the lake projectdeveloped.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The lake was previously in U.S. Rep. Ronnie Shows’ FourthCongressional District, but was made a part of the Third Districtfollowing redistricting. Incumbents Pickering and Shows are facingeach other in November to represent the Third District.

Project Manager Carol Boll praised Mississippi’s U.S.representatives and senators for their cooperation in moving theproject along.

“The whole Mississippi delegation has helped, with (Sen. Thad)Cochran being the lead,” Boll said. “They’re all good people.”

The estimated total project cost is around $41.3 million.

Boll said that includes $10 million for the dam, $3.5 millionfor fisheries and wildlife development, $8 million forinfrastructure and an expected $20 million in private investmentsfor recreational area development. Project officials hope to havean investment partner by the spring of 2003.

Pickering said meeting infrastructure needs such as roads, waterand sewer, will be important as the project moves towardcompletion.

“We need to make sure there’s infrastructure for the county sothat the lake benefits the community and the local economy,”Pickering said.

Construction of a 93-feet high dam began in October 2000 and isnearing completion.

“It’s progressing and we’re on schedule,” said Doug Oliver,project director.

Closure of the dam is expected to be done in the fall and thelake will begin filling with water, which should take about twoyears. The lake will be stocked with fish the first winter afterclosure, and stocking will take 18 months.

“A fish-stocking schedule has been developed which willestablish healthy predator-prey relationships in the lake, thusensuring sustainable fisheries and a quality fishing experience,”said Larry Clay, fisheries biologist.

Garrick Combs, Franklin County economic developer, said theamount of science and technology going into fish stocking will paydividends quickly.

“They’re predicting state records in almost everything rightfrom the beginning,” Combs said.

Citing studies, Combs said the lake is expected to attractbetween 250,000 and 500,000 visitors a year. That should helpimprove the local economy through sales tax collections and otherareas.

“We’re hoping it will put a charge into our retail businessesand shops,” Combs said.

An observation deck off Highway 98 was constructed recently toallow visitors to monitor construction of the dam and the fillingof the lake. Oliver said the deck was a popular site, which isindicative of the amount of interest in the lake.

“It’s going to attract people and we want to continue to attractpeople,” Oliver said.