Construction of new spillway could start this summer
Posted: Wednesday, April 8, 2009 9:13 pm
By JOHN BRANNON
Messenger Staff Reporter
Construction of a new spillway and bridge project at Reelfoot Lake could begin as early as this summer, The Messenger has learned.
“As soon as we acquire all the right-of-way, we will be able to go to construction, which should be this summer,” said Roger Lewis of the Jackson district office, Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT). “We’ll let the contracts then. But the key to this thing is getting the right-of-way. We’re right at the end of that process.”
Lewis is project officer for two projects at the lake — the spillway and bridge project and a box culvert project. Estimated construction cost for the box culvert project is $746,000 and between $23 million and $25 million for the bridge and spillway.
The current spillway, built in 1931, serves a dual purpose: as a spillway for waters of Reelfoot Lake flowing into Running Reelfoot Bayou and as a two-lane bridge on state Route 21. In this new configuration, the spillway and bridge will be separate structures.
The old spillway has been declared an historical landmark and will be preserved.
Lewis said the box culvert project, located in the vicinity of the intersection of state Routes 21 and 22, has a dual purpose — alleviation of annual flooding in the area and as a diversion for water that now flows through the old spillway.
“When we build the new spillway, we’re going to put a dirt berm in front of the old spillway to relieve the pressure off it,” he said. “Currently, the stream on the north side of Highway 21 empties in front of the spillway, runs through it, into Running Reelfoot Bayou. When we put the berm up, the water won’t have anywhere to go. So we’re building a box culvert at the (east) end of the spillway. All the water coming down the north side of Highway 21 will go under the highway right out to the bayou (creek).
“It’s just a way to divert water. And it’s got to be in place before we build the new spillway.”
Lewis said TDOT is in the final stage of acquiring about 75 acres of land for right-of-way purposes from state agencies and a private owner.
“The big thing this past year was acquiring a construction permit from the (U.S.) Corps of Engineers. We got that on Aug. 20.”
TDOT has a target date of December 2011 for the spillway-bridge projects to be completed. “It’s a major project,” Lewis said, adding that box culvert project and the spillway project will be financed with state funds and the bridge project with state and federal funds.
“The spillway, the channel and all that will be paid for out of the state (TDOT) budget,” he said.
Randy Cook, manager of Reelfoot Lake National Wildlife Refuge for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, said the new spillway complex has been a long time coming.
“It’s well needed, well deserved,” he said. “I think most everyone involved recognizes the need to go ahead and replace the old structure.
“These new structures will help preserve Reelfoot Lake for generations to come. I’m happy about it.”
Published in The Messenger 4.8.09