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Officials seek course of action to fix recurring problems on Robins Lake

NATCHEZ — Adams County and state officials were hard at work Friday morning addressing damages to a dam on Robins Lake Road.

Part of the Robins Lake Road dam sloughed off when heavy rainfall Thursday forced the lake to top the dam Thursday night.

Emergency management director Robert Bradford said some 15 to 20 residents in a neighborhood downstream were notified about the damage Thursday evening and evacuated as a precaution.

Bradford said no homes had been flooded during the storm Thursday. Bradford said Robins Lake commonly floods the dam anytime there is a large amount of rain over a short time period.

“Those living in that area should always be mindful of the weather,” he said.

Bradford said Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality officials arrived Friday morning to assess the damage.

“We’re talking with the state to get their recommendation on how we should fix this so that it won’t happen again,” Bradford said. “We’re also looking at other areas in the county that may have been impacted by the heavy rain.”

Adams County District 1 Supervisor Wes Middleton, who was sworn into office Thursday, said he stayed up past midnight monitoring the dam as well and was out at it again early Friday morning.

“That particular dam has been a problem for many, many years,” he said. “Unfortunately it’s a problem I inherited. When there is more than 7 inches of rainfall in a short amount of time, there’s just not a lot you can do. I have a meeting set up Monday to discuss the best course of action to get it fixed for good so that this doesn’t happen again. …  If that dam were to washout, I believe more than a hundred people in that area would be affected.”

Robins Lake Road opened to local traffic Friday morning while the sloughed off area of the dam was cordoned off by barricades.

William McKercher, chief of the Dam Safety Division of the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, said the lakeside shoulder of the road had been widened to allow emergency vehicles to pass through safely if needed.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers provided two 12-inch thick water pumps that were used to alleviate the pressure on the dam and prevent further damage, McKercher said.

“The pipes installed in the dam are still free-flowing and these two pumps are taking the extra pressure off,” McKercher said.

“(Thursday) night there was anywhere from a foot and a half to two feet of water coming over the top of the dam. All that water flowing over put pressure on the dam and washed the soil out underneath, making the pipes bend and pull apart at the seam,” he said.

McKercher said the culverts that carry the water from the 50-acre lake into the spillway aren’t large enough to fit the lake’s water capacity, which causes the dam to overflow when several inches of rain fall in a short period of time.

“If there had been a continuous rain, there is a possibility that the dam would break,” McKercher said. “Since the rain slacked off around 11 p.m. to a light sprinkle we didn’t have that issue. We stayed out and monitored everything and watched for erosion.”

Adams County Road Department Manager Robbie Dollar said similar slough off had occurred at the same dam in 2013 and another voluntary evacuation was issued.

“It’s been several years ago that there was a small part that washed out that we addressed, but in the last few years, there haven’t been any erosion issues,” Dollar said. “Ten or 12 years ago water went all the way out to U.S. 61 and they shut the highway down. … No one was flooded out but there were some residents who evacuated as a safety measure.”

Derrick Batteste, an area resident, said his house stood safely on top of a hill but the spillover washed out a bridge to 62 acres of pasture that he owns.

“Right now I can’t get onto my property,” Batteste said Friday. “I didn’t see it (the washout) until early this morning. I heard the water was over the road. The people who wanted to get home couldn’t and the people who were already home couldn’t leave.”

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