Rain delays Franklin Co. lake project

Published 6:00 am Friday, November 29, 2002

BUDE — Rain delays over the last six months have pushed backthe opening of Okhissa Lake by at least a year as work on the 1,000acre lake continues to progress.

United States Forestry Service officials had planned to have thedrainage valve closed off this fall to allow the lake on Highway 98to begin filling with water, but a setback in construction will notallow that to happen.

“We still have to put six more feet of dirt on the dam, and alsowe have to install a water buffer with cement blocks,” said CarolBoll, project manager.

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The lake’s valve will be closed off in fall 2003 to allow thelake to fill with water, which should take about two years, saidforestry service officials.

Although the lake will be ready before then, they will have towait until next fall because of the importance of timing fishgrowth for a healthy fish population.

“Spring is the ideal time for spawning, so we want to wait so wecan get that,” said Boll.

A number of gravel beds have already been placed around the 39miles of shoreline for spawning, and more are expected to beconstructed before next fall.

“The gravel beds are very important since the shoreline of thelake is so steep that it’s not good for spawning, so we createdflat areas and rocky areas for the fish,” said Boll.

The gravel beds are 20 by 20 feet and 20 by 40 feet encompassedin cypress wood, allowing the fish plenty of room to lay their eggsout of the mud, allowing oxygen to circulate producing bigger andhealthier fish, said Boll.

Two marine biologists have developed the plans for stocking thelake with threadfin shad, fathead minnow, lake chubsuckers, bream,crappie, channel catfish, large mouth bass and white perch.

Ledges and channels will be built in throughout the lake whilestumps and tops are being laid in the lake bottom to provideadequate escape cover habitats for the fish.

“We also had a southern ‘snow’ storm, when lime was used toenhance lake fertilization,” said Boll. “The lime will increase thewater’s buffering capacity, therefore decreasing rapid shifts inwater acidity and improving water quality.”

Upon completion, Okhissa Lake will provide approximately 300acres for water skiing and about 700 acres for fishing and quietwater sports. The water will be around 70 feet deep at the dam withan average lake depth of 31 feet.

The dam will be the second highest in the state at 93 feet. Itwill be complete with a cement buffer five feet above water and 15feet below water.

“It will catch the impact of the waves to keep the dam fromeroding,” said Boll. “We will also seed the dam for sod to furtherprevent erosion.

Lake officials plan to send out bid packages for the lake’srecreational areas, which will include cabins, lodges, beaches anddocks, in the summer of 2003. The projects should begin in2004.

They hope to award the contracts to a private corporation thatwill build and maintain the facilities.

“It helps get the money back into the community by hiring peopleand buying supplies and gasoline locally,” said Boll.

Roadwork around Okhissa Lake will also begin within the nextyear. Several roads will be improved while a few new roads will beadded around the lake.