It’s been over a week since officials warned residents of six Mississippi counties that the Arkabutla Dam on the Coldwater River could fail soon.
Last Tuesday, a flash flood watch was issued for Coahoma, DeSoto, Quitman, Tallahatchie, Tate, and Tunica counties. The following morning, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Vicksburg District’s Emergency Operations Center was activated after identifying potential breach conditions at the dam. It was later confirmed that a depression was discovered towards the bottom of the dam during a routine inspection, prompting emergency actions to be taken.
During Thursday’s episode of The Gallo Show, Col. Christopher Klein, commander of the USACE Vicksburg District, provided an update on where things currently stand with the dam and what steps the corps is taking to reduce any further risk of a breach.
“What we learned is what’s happening underneath the outlet is caused by the level of the lake. The level of the lake drives what is happening underneath the outlet,” Klein said regarding what led to the dam’s present conditions.
In response to the high water levels, USACE crews are now lowering water levels in hopes to have pool elevation at 210 feet by mid-June. Water levels were last reported as sitting at 228 feet.
“What that’s going to do is going to relieve the pressure gradient that goes through the dam and stop the erosion that’s happening underneath there,” Klein added.
The USACE is also working with dam safety experts to install relief wells with the ultimate goal of executing total remediation of the dam.
Constructed in 1943, Arkabutla Dam is 65 feet high, 10,000 feet long, and reduces flood risk for 19,000 residents. The dam protects $510 million in homes and businesses.