Officials say Lamar Bruce will reopen in '13

By Cain Madden/NEMS Daily Journal

SALTILLO – Despite setbacks caused by a wet winter, anglers and water-skiers could return to Lake Lamar Bruce on schedule by 2013.
“They (the Department of Finance and Administration) are not going to allow this to drag out,” said Larry Pugh with the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. “Mother Nature will play its role, as it already has, but we are planning on getting this thing done.”
Lake Lamar Bruce was closed to the public and fully drained last fall when the Department of Environmental Quality reclassified it as a public danger, due to a leaking levee. Saltillo Mayor Bill Williams said if they hadn’t done something, and it flooded, downtown Saltillo could be under water.
Project engineer Randy Hathcock of Engineering Solutions said the design on a new levee is about 90 percent complete. Hathcock said the Mississippi Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, which owns the lake, will advertise for the construction of the levee by September, once the design is approved by the DEQ.
The crew would work as far into the winter as weather permits, and then return during next summer’s construction window, Pugh said.
“The window is typically June through October, as by November it usually starts getting wet,” Pugh said. “But we will work as long as we can.”
Pugh said it’s guaranteed this project will be completed, and that the funds earmarked for the project by the Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration will remain with this project.
“We own it,” Pugh said. “There is no way we would not want to finish it.”
Construction, which includes moving the levee farther into the lake to bring the dam’s slope up to code, would be complete in 2012, Pugh said.
The lake would open back up in spring of 2013, giving it a year to be restocked with fish, including bass and catfish, Pugh said.
“Calling Panther Lake is one we just opened in 2005, and it is already producing tremendous fish – 14-pound bass,” Pugh said. “That is what we expect from the new population here.”
While the lake is drained, the department is doing habitat enhancements and improving piers, Pugh said.
Lake Lamar Bruce has been an important part of the area since it opened in 1964, said Williams.
“As a young lad, it is where I learned to swim,” he said. “During the ’60s and ’70s, you could not get in because traffic was backed up everywhere.”
Now, Williams said, there are more lakes in the area, but locals are still looking for it to reopen, as are travelers.
“The Natchez Trace Parkway has signage of the lake and campground, and while we don’t know how many, we know campers stop off the Trace and stay there,” Williams said. “And while they are here, we hope they’ll shop at the grocery store and get a tank of gas.”
Pugh said the project’s cost would have to come from DFA officials, who could not be reached for comment.
Contact Cain Madden at (662) 678-1582 or cain.madden@journalinc.com.