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Dam closed; lake needs water now

MEADVILLE – Developers of a Franklin County recreational lakeare now waiting on the rain.

Following Tuesday’s closure of a valve for a dam being built forthe project, rainfall is needed to fill Lake Okhissa withwater.

“Today is a huge milestone in the effort to bring aboutrecreational lake to this area,” said State Conversationist HomerWilkes with the Natural Resource Conservation Service, which isadministering the contract to build the dam.

The 1,000-acre lake is located in the Homochitto NationalForest. It is part of an estimated 5,000-acre recreation projectfor the area.

U.S. Forest Service officials estimated it would take about twoyears for the lake to fill with water. That timetable, which wouldhave the lake filled in late 2006 or early 2007, is dependent onthe amount of rainfall the area receives.

Officials also are continuing with other aspects of the project,such as stocking the lake with fish and pursuing a partner todevelop recreational facilities.

“Now that we’ve got the gate closed, we’ll start stocking thelake with fish, probably in the next few weeks,” said Mary BellLunsford, public affairs officer for the U.S. Forest Service.

The lake will have a wide variety of fish. The lake will bemanaged for sport fishing utilizing a predator/prey strategy, saidGerry Farmer, forest supervisor for Mississippi.

Lunsford said a prospectus for the recreational area developmentis expected to be sent out within the next few weeks. Included inthe plans are camping areas, day zones for family outings, a marinaand education-oriented activities.

Officials are looking for a private investment of $15 million to$30 million to develop the recreational area. Federal funds arebeing used for the $10 million dam and $5-$7.5 million in accessroad costs.

Lunsford said the forest service is working on development of aboat ramp and picnic area.

“Even if we don’t have a private partner on board, we’ll havesome access to the lake once it’s full,” Lunsford said.