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Celebration will mark Okhissa dam completion

National, state and local officials will celebrate thecompletion of the dam for Okhissa Lake during a 10 a.m. Saturdayceremony at the site near Bude.

U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran will be keynote speaker for theevent.

Beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday, visitors may park at the FranklinCounty Fairgrounds in Bude. They will then be transported to thelake-dam site for the ceremony.

After more than 50 years of grassroots support, U.S. ForestService officials said the dam’s completion represents a”significant milestone” toward the 1,000 recreational lake becominga reality. Additional road construction and other work is neededbefore the lake is scheduled to open in 2007.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service managed constructionof the earthen dam. At 97.1 feet, officials said it is the tallestin Mississippi.

Initial work began on the $10 million dam in September 2000.Following some contractor issues, work resumed in January 2004.

The dam’s valve was closed in November to allow the lake to fillwith water, with was estimated to take about two years based onaverage rainfall amounts. The lake is also being stocked with avariety of fish.

The lake will have 39 miles of shoreline and its average depthwill be 31 feet, with a maximum depth of 73 feet at the dam.

The lake will be part of an overall 5,000 recreational area.Federal funding is being used for dam, road and otherinfrastructure while officials are looking for private investmentto develop the recreational opportunities.

Okhissa Lake is located within Homochitto National Forest, threemiles south of Bude, off Highway 98. Visitors are invited to bringlawn chairs, water and snacks and enjoy Saturday’s celebration.