Arkabutla Lake's shoreline on the edge of emergency spillway - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Arkabutla Lake's shoreline on the edge of emergency spillway

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(WMC-TV) - The Arkabutla Lake was less than an inch from running over the emergency spillway Monday.

The lake is a place where North Mississippians come to boat, fish, and swim.  However,  the main reason it's there is to protect the Yazoo River Basin from flooding, something it's about to lose control of.

Arkabutla Lake is a 33,000 acre body of water and its two tenths of an inch away from running over the emergency spillway.

"A significant rainfall would cause us problems," said Park Ranger Ernie Lentz.

He added that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built the dam in 1940 in an effort to control flooding in the lower Mississippi Valley.

"They would be having a lot of problems right now because all this water would have spilled out of the banks of the Coldwater river," said Lentz.

Rain from 1,000 square miles gathers at the dam.  It's now creating problems on the lake.

"All of our swimming beaches are closed," said Lentz. "We've got a few campsites are underwater, we've got an awful lot of picnic sights under water."

However, if the water rises above the 238-foot flood stage level, the Corps will not be able to regulate water flow into the Coldwater River.

"If it spills over," said Lentz, "if we reach flood stage and have that uncontrolled release then we're going to affect some residences in Marks."

Marks, Mississippi is about 40 miles south of the Arkabutla lake.  The Coldwater River is currently a foot above its flood stage level at the Marks gauge.

Any more water allowed down stream would cause problems.

"Right now if we go an start releasing water, we're adding insult to injury to those that's below us," said Lentz. 

He added that the dam works a lot like a bathtub.

"When we get a whole lot of rain," said Lentz, "what we do is close our flood gates, like putting the stopper in and we hold all this water in until its safe to release it."

Lentz is hoping river waters down south will recede before more rain comes.

The park ranger said depending on how much it rains, he hopes to have the beaches open by Mid-July.

*Note: Pratt road is currently closed. Only access to the lake is from the south by Arkabutla road.

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