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House bill could lead to new spillway

WOODVILLE — Wilkinson County could get $2 million to build a new spillway at Lake Mary if Gov. Haley Barbour signs a house bill that takes out a $402 million bond for projects around the state.

The Sam Field spillway has blown out and no longer keeps the water levels up during low-water periods.

Wilkinson County District 5 Supervisor Jennings Nettles said this four-year project is long overdue for completion.

“(Lake Mary) is our biggest tax base,” Nettles said. “The luxury tax is close to a quarter of a million.”

Some of that tax base, which includes luxury homes and hunting camps, has already moved out due to the drying lake, Nettles said.

“Lake Mary is the biggest thing we have going for us, as far as recreational purposes,” he said.

The Wilkinson County Board of Supervisors, along with members of the Amite County Board of Supervisors, recently went to Jackson for a meeting at the Wildlife and Fisheries Park, followed by a visit to Congressman Gregg Harper’s office in Pearl.

“I think this push got some attention on the state level,” Nettles said.

“We were happy to host all of the involved parties at the congressman’s office in Pearl,” Harper’s Communication Director Adam Buckalew said. “We feel like that was really a bridge to success in this issue.”

Nettles said Harper’s office, which sent District Director Chip Reynolds and Field Representative Evan Gardner to Lake Mary to view it, was instrumental in helping the project move forward.

Buckalew said Harper sent Reynolds and Gardner to gather information to see if Harper could help on a federal level, but found that it was more of a state issue.

“We are certainly pleased that the legislature has worked with the local officials down there to make progress on this issue,” Buckalew said.

Nettles also extended thanks Rep. Sam Mims, Rep. Angela Cockerham and Sen. Kelvin Butler, who helped push the importance of the project.

When Nettles started this project, he said not all of the board was behind it, but he was glad they all worked together to reach a solution.

District 2 Supervisor Richard L. Hollins, whose district includes Lake Mary, said the lake was very important to Wilkinson County, but he hopes the project gets started before the dry season gets here.

Nettles agreed, saying it was going to be an ugly fight for construction workers come July and August.

Wilkinson County supervisors had reached out to Adams County supervisors to come up with a plan to co-fund repairs, since the spillway was located in Adams County. Adams County also has an oil tax base in the area.

Board President Darryl Grennell had said that Adams County was not in a position to help financially, but it would support Wilkinson County in any other capacity.

House Bill 1701 appropriates $2 million for the purpose of assisting in paying the costs of constructing a new spillway and related bridge and dam structures at Lake Mary.

Funding is included for construction of a temporary dam and diversion canal, removing existing structures, removing and stockpiling riprap, spillway construction, dam embankment construction, road access, constructing bridges and related structures, design and construction engineering and field testing.

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