Draw-down of Lake Okatibbee stops

By Staff
Dec. 2, 2000
By Ben Alexander/The Meridian Star
Jackson County officials may have to look to other sources of water to serve parched industries on the Gulf Coast after being informed no more water will be released from Okatibbee Reservoir.
Earlier this year, a record drought forced Jackson County Port Authority officials to buy up to four billion gallons of water from the Okatibbee Reservoir through the PHWD in order to keep industries along the Pascagoula River supplied.
Under the deal, Mississippi Power and Chevron both agreed to pay $100,000 up front through the port authority to the PHWD. Both companies then agreed to pay an additional $25,000 for every billion gallons actually released.
Millions of gallons of water have been released from Lake Okatibbee to the Gulf Coast raising concern about the environmental and economical impact the release could have on the reservoir used by residents of Lauderdale County.
The news comes just in time for Joe Killebrew, owner of Cove's Nest Marina at Lake Okatibbee, whose business was affected when the marina's water levels dropped so low that cranes had to be used to remove boats because the water wasn't deep enough to pull them out on the ramps.
Killebrew said recent rains have raised the level of water in the lake 8 inches.
Florey and other members of the board of supervisors recently asked the PHWD to stop drawing the water from the reservoir. Florey believes the request, which also asked about monetary damages for Killebrew's expenses, didn't fall on deaf ears.
Bill Pennington, Lauderdale County's representative on the PHWD's board of directors, said the change of heart had nothing to do with pressure from the supervisors.
Pennington said the waterway district retains the right to draw additional water off, but is unlikely to do so.
The contract between the port authority and the waterway district for the water will expire Jan. 1.
Ben Alexander is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at balexander@themeridianstar.com.