A $481,000 grant received late last year from the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality has paved the way for the Forrest County Board of Supervisors to begin reconstructing the dam in the Longleaf Acres subdivision outside of Petal.
The work, which has been ongoing for the last few weeks, will bring the dam into compliance with new regulations from MDEQ, which classified the dam as a “high hazard” based on the amount of water in the system.
““We hope we can get it built for $480,000,” District 3 Supervisor Burkett Ross said. “If we can get in under that, there will be no cost at all to the taxpayers of Forrest County, and we’re certainly excited about that.
“We’ve had good weather, and we’ve got a good amount of work done on it. It’s coming right along. It’ll be a whole lot nicer than it was, and it will certainly be as safe as can be.”
The funds will allow officials to face the front side of the dam with a heavy clay material, as well as to raise the dam approximately 30 inches. In addition, a new spillway will be constructed, and the back of the dam will be rebuilt with a graded slope.
“We’ve about got the front face up to the level that we are right now, with the heavy clay-type material that had to be put there,” Ross said. “That was donated to us by Mr. Johnny Nelson, who just passed away, and we’re so thankful he gave that to us.
“We’re hauling some of it with our own trucks, and we also have hired some trucks to haul it, so that we can get this fixed as soon as we can. The road is now permanently closed until we get the new drainage system, and how long that will be, there’s no way of knowing that.”
Officials hope to finish the project within another 90 to 100 days if the weather continues to cooperate.
“We hope it will be sooner than that – weather has a lot to do with it,” Ross said. “The grant allows us to go all the way to December, but we certainly hope to finish by the summer.
“And then we’ll restock the lake (with fish) when we get finished with it. I think it’s still got the same amount of fish in it now – there’s been some nice fish caught out of it – but we’ll restock it when it’s done and we’ll repave the road.”
Ross said the rebuilt dam will be a boon to the Longleaf Acres neighborhood.
“That’s a main thoroughfare that people who live in that subdivision use to go out to Eastabuchie Road to 59, and hit (Highway) 11 and go north and south,” he said. “So it will certainly put it back better than it was, and it should be there for a long, long time.”
In the summer of 2018, the MDEQ reclassified the dam as “high hazard.” According to engineers, a failure at the dam could possibly affect 12 residences downstream.
“That was because conditions changed below it, which would be downstream, so to speak – that’s what caused all this,” Ross said. “It wasn’t anticipated – they just came and told us.
“They’ve done it in other areas of the state, where they’ve reclassified dams where conditions have changed. So that was why we had to do this.”
Back in June 2018, supervisors approved a payment of $3,408.38 to Hattiesburg firm Shows, Dearman & Waits to draw up a flood inundation map and look at ways to minimize the effects in case of dam failure. Shortly after that, board president David Hogan stressed that there was no problem with the dam as is.
“It’s strictly a designation because of the water volume amount,” he said. “I want to say that dam has over 25 acres of water.
“There is no current threat or danger of dam failure or anything else.”