I am writing this letter to urge the Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisor to consider the option of decommissioning the Oktibbeha County Lake Dam.
The one solution the board has considered is to reconstruct the lake in its former configuration. The board has allocated all of Oktibbeha County’s $9,600,000 recovery funds, established under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), for this project. The current estimate for rehabilitating the lake’s dam stands at $17,000,000. The projected cost continues to escalate with each new estimate.
The final rules for ARPA monies have been adopted by the U.S. Department of the Treasury. The rules were originally published May 17, 2021 as interim rules. They address the use of ARPA funds for rehabilitation of dams and reservoirs. One of the conditions required in order for these funds to be used for dam rehabilitation is “The primary purpose of the dam or reservoir is for drinking water supply.” (Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 18, pg. 4452) Having served on the Adaton Water Association Board of Directors for 10 years, I can assure that the lake in question has never been used, nor would it be considered as a drinking water source.
On February 24, 2022 William McKercher, Chief of the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, Dam Safety Division, addressed the potential to decommission Oktibbeha County Lake Dam in a letter to the board. He stated “The potential to drain and breach the dam permanently is a viable option for Oktibbeha County Lake Dam…”. There are conditions outlined in the letter which would need to be adhered to, that would ensure no adverse effects to downstream residence. These conditions and their cost are minimal relative to the one option the board is presently considering.
It is the board’s obligation to the taxpayers of Oktibbeha County to give consideration to the decommissioning option.
With respect to the ARPA monies, they remain committed to a project for which they are not eligible. The board should develop a list of projects for which these monies are eligible, taking into consideration which projects would qualify for state matching funds. If the board leaves these funds committed to the lake rehabilitation, not only will Oktibbeha County lose its opportunity to receive state matching funds, it will lose these funds in their entirety.
Barry Critz, Starkville