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Breach at Arkabutla Dam unlikely as lake levels continue to drop

Arkabutla Dam
Arkabutla Dam (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army Corpse of Engineers)

Concerns of a potential breach at Arkabutla Dam have greatly decreased due to a drop in lake levels, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reports.

In late January, the Corps sounded the alarm that the uptick in precipitation and melting of ice Mississippi experienced raised the water levels in the reservoir, elevating the chances of the dam being compromised. Officials increased the potential breach emergency status from “ALERT” to “WATCH.”

Since then, lake levels at Arkabutla Dam have dropped below 210 feet, which reduces the potential of a breach situation. Lake levels at the dam, which is located in DeSoto and Tate Counties in Northwest Mississippi, can fluctuate quickly, especially during the rainy season, the Corps notes.

The Corps maintains the lake at approximately 204 feet to provide a safety margin and will continue to draw down the level this week to reach that estimated threshold.

The potential breach is associated with observed signs of distress discovered last May in which a depression was discovered towards the bottom of the dam during a routine inspection, prompting emergency actions to be taken.

While interim risk reduction measures are currently underway, full emergency repairs are not expected to be completed until this summer. Operational releases associated with lowering the lake are not expected to induce downstream flooding.

Current conditions at Arkabutla Dam include:

  • Reservoir Pool Elevation — 208.7 feet elevation
  • Spillway Crest Elevation — 238 feet elevation
  • Spillway Status — Not Activated
  • Pool Restriction — 204 feet elevation
  • Current releases — 3,850 cubic feet per second (cfs)

The physical condition of the dam remains unchanged, and a dam breach is not imminent. Officials with the Corps’ Vicksburg District and the National Weather Service have partnered up to maximize public awareness in affected areas.

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