Officials at the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries & Parks said the dam didn't fail as feared on Thursday after nearly 11 inches of rain fell in the area and the embankment began to erode, threatening thousands of homes downstream on the Tangipahoa River.
"It has to be drained and the dam rebuilt," said Ron Garavelli, the agency's chief of fisheries.
Since Tropical Storm Isaac was involved, the state could receive funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help rebuild the dam.
"We had started pumping the water out of the lake Thursday (Aug. 30) to lessen pressure on the dam, but then it quit raining and the water stopped rising," Gravelli said. "But the damage was done, and we are already in the process of drawing the lake down completely."
Earlier on Thursday, when the breech was discovered, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal issued a flood evacuation notice for residents living within a mile on either side of the Tangipahoa River, including many in the town of Kentwood. After a reassessment of the dam by the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, the evacuation order was scaled back to homes within a half mile. Even after the threat assessment was minimized, Jindal still urged residents in close proximity to the river to leave the area regardless.
The (approximately) 550-acre lake is one of the most-popular fishing holes in Southwest Mississippi, and was a favorite spot of the late Jerry Clower, the comedian from nearby Liberty in Amite County.
A self-proclaimed "perch-jerker" and "perch-eater," Clower once told the author that "in the spring, when the crappie spawn at Percy Quin, there ain't no better place to be."
Lake Tangipahoa was also a popular bass-fishing lake, offering a great topwater bite around its lily-pad fields in the spring and fall.
It will be at least three years, Garavelli said, before any fishing will be allowed in the lake. After the 2,300-foot dam is renovated, the lake will need to be restocked; the MDWFP usually waits either two or three years after restocking before allowing fishing to resume.
Garavelli said today (Aug. 31) that the MDWFP has not received any other reports of Isaac-related problems as of Friday, but remains on alert for any fish kills reported after the heavy rainfall dumped fresh, cool water in all the state's lakes and streams. At the peak of summer heat, the fear is that lakes will "turn over" and reduce the oxygen levels needed to sustain fish.
"As of today, we haven't heard of any (fish kills) but all of our people have been alerted, and anyone who sees evidence of a fish kill should notify our agency as soon as possible," Garavelli said.
With dove season opening tomorrow, hunters will have to work harder to enjoy their hunts - it is going to be muddy.
"Makes for pretty tough walking, when fields get turned into gumbo mud," said Jacob Sartain of Madison, who has a sunflower field prepared near Isola in the Delta. "I think the mud will also affect the doves, too. They do not like mud. They may be reluctant to feed.
"Hopefully, if we can get some good sun, the fields will dry by Monday and we can salvage at least one good day this weekend."
Jerry Thomas of Canton had a much worse prediction.
"We were hunting over wheat that we planted a couple of weeks ago, and I have already checked and the wheat either got pushed into the mud, got washed away or has sprouted," Thomas said. "We're gonna have to re-sew our field."
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