Officials vote to use funds to replace rural Mississippi dam

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STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — Officials in Mississippi voted Monday to use county operating funds to begin replacing a rural dam that came close to breaching earlier this year.

Residents in Oktibbeha County, located about 120 miles (193 kilometers) northeast of Jackson, have voiced concerns about the Oktibbeha County Lake Dam amid its ongoing structural issues, including undersized spillways and steep slopes that produce mudslides, according to The Dispatch.

Residents had been urged to evacuate in January after officials noticed it was close to failing.

The county supervisors voted 3-2 on Monday to use county funds to develop blueprints for the dam’s replacement. The board had initially planned to use Mississippi state road aid funds for the development of the project but later discovered they were not allowed to use state funds to rebuild the dam, District 3 Supervisor Marvell Howard said.

In the last two months alone, the county has spent $150,000 on pumps that lower the dam’s water level. Officials estimate a replacement for the dam will cost about $8 million.

Monday’s vote follows disagreements on the best way to fix the dam. Although the county approved beginning a replacement process, George Sills, a retired dam engineer, told the board that building new slopes would be a less expensive option than replacing the dam.

Officials from Mississippi’s Department of Environment Quality and the local chapter of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have made recent trips to assess the dam.

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