Three boat ramps at Barnett Reservoir have already been closed due to drought-caused low water conditions, and more could be added to the list as there appears no relief in sight.
“We’ve closed Fannin Landing, Brown’s Landing and Twin Harbors Landing,” said John Sigman, general manager of Pearl River Valley Water Supply District, a state agency that oversees the 33,000-acre lake near Jackson. “Today (Thursday, Oct. 15), the lake level is 295.1, which is two feet below the normal operating level (297.5 feet above sea level, and we could easily see it go a half foot to a foot lower in the coming months.
“Without rain, we lose about a foot of water a month. We see the 15-day forecast and know we won’t be getting any significant rainfall in that time. Another problem is that we will need several significant rain events before we see any impact.”
The problem, Sigman said, is that the ground in the entire Pearl River drainage system is bone dry. Any rain that falls is immediately swallowed up by the parched earth.
“Until it’s saturated, there just won’t be any runoff that would impact the reservoir, at least not at the extent we need,” he said.
Fishermen traveling to Barnett to fish are advised to use caution in the low water conditions, both at the ramps and while boating on the lake.
Fannin Landing includes the newest ramps on the lake, with a harbor tucked behind a breaker wall made of riprap. The discoloration of the rocks on the breaker wall shows the significant difference between current and normal water levels. It has the advantage of floating courtesy piers, but the base of the piers are sitting on the ground at the receding shoreline.
At Brown’s Landing, located on the northwest corner of the main lake just off the Natchez Trace and Mississippi Highway 43, a combination of factors led to the closing. The permanent courtesy piers rise about 5 feet above the surface, making stepping off or on a boat dangerous. Ends of the ramp are shallow, making reloading a boat on a trailer difficult. The channel leading in from the Highway 43 side is dangerously shallow, bordering on being unsafe to navigate. If either one was eliminated, it would still be safe to launch at Brown’s Landing.
The channel leading to the landing at Twin Harbors, at the back end of a subdivision of the same name just across the Natchez Trace mid-lake, is too shallow to safely navigate.
“Plus, with the low water, we can see some problems with concrete at the ramp that we can now easily get to and fix,” Sigman said. “That’s something that we will continue to monitor in the coming month, looking for problems with ramps as they become more and more exposed.”
Boaters are encouraged to use the two main ramps at Highway 43 near Tommy’s Trading Post or the Madison County Landing at the lower end of the main lake.