High Water Mandates Action at Okatibbee Dam

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Collinsville, Miss. The heavy rains have taken a toll on more than just the rivers; Lake Okatibbee was taking in far more than it usually does. On average, inflow into the lake is less than 200 cubic feet of water a second, but after heavy rains it started taking in 9000 cubic feet per second. With that much inflow, the lake quickly rose to 349 feet which is a key number that requires action to ensure safety.

"Once we get to that 349 mark we have got to release some water rather than to just sit and hold everything, to protect the integrity of the dam and not have a situation where if other rain comes in before we can release water that the lake tries to circumvent the dam and go out the emergency spillways," said operations manager mark Dean. "There is no problem with the dam; I want to make that clear."

Management is required to release water at 1200 cubic feet per second which is the maximum they can release, and will continue to release at that rate till the lake is back to 344 feet. This won’t add to the downstream totals but will keep the levels up for a few days. With the added water, many campgrounds have flooded. But this, too, is normal.

"Well this is normal for us, during this time of the year, during the winter and spring months," Dean said. "That's what we are here for, to hold water. Our parks are built and designed to take that water, to flood them and then clear off the water and go about business as usual."

According to Dean, the water level will drop back to 344 in about 2 weeks unless additional rain fall occurs. Cleanups will start for parks and the campground as soon as the water drops.