About three years ago, members of the Forrest County Board of Supervisors were looking at three options to bring the dam in the Longleaf Acres subdivision in Petal into compliance with
new regulations from the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality: raise the dam, lower the spillway or lower the water level in the lake.
A solution is now on the way in the form of a recently-announced MDEQ grant in the range of $455,000 to $481,000, which will essentially allow for reconstruction of the dam. 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.
“This will save the taxpayers of Forrest County almost a half a million dollars, so we’re excited about that,” District 3 Supervisor Burkett Ross said. “We’ve been waiting on it for some time, and there’s a lot of hoops to jump through any time you get government money.
“So it’s taken a long time to get it, but it was certainly worth the wait. (MDEQ) wanted us to keep the lake down, so we have, and it looks like a big mud puddle out there, but shortly we’ll be able to put some water back in it.”
In addition, a new spillway will be constructed, and the back of the dam will be rebuilt with a graded slope.
“It didn’t have a lot of depth on the back of that dam, but now it will just be a three-to-one slope,” Ross said. “They estimated that it will probably take somewhere in the neighborhood of 18,000 yards of dirt.
“When we get done, we’ll put the water back in it and restock it (with fish).”
Forrest County engineer Nick Connolly is currently working on plans for drainage and other matters. If all goes according to plan, the dam project should get its start within the next two weeks.
Work on the dam is expected to be completed within three to five months, depending on the weather.
In the summer of 2018, MDEQ officials reclassified the Longleaf Acres dam as “high hazard,” based of the amount of water in the system. According to engineers, a failure at the dam could possibly affect 12 residences downstream.
“They’re doing that around the state – one I know that they did was up there in Simpson County, right up there just above Magee,” Ross said. “They really did a good job on that, and I hope ours turns out as good as that did.
“It’s just because of conditions that changed below the dam – that’s usually what causes that – and that’s what happened in our case. But now, it’ll have a new drainage system in it – we used part of the old one, but there will be some new, and there will be a new spillway. It’ll be real nice once we get through with it, and I’m just so happy we were able to get that grant money.”
Back in June 2018, supervisors pproved 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. Once we get the information back from the engineers, and the cost associated with it, the board will make a decision on how best to move forward.”