Reelfoot Lake spillway still inoperable
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OBION COUNTY, Tenn. — Worries and frustrations continue over the Reelfoot Lake spillway as some say it’s crumbling and threatening to flood everything around it and drain Reelfoot Lake. A new spillway to help manually keep water in and out has been under construction for six years at a cost of $20 million in state and federal funds but still is inoperable. “Many meetings, many hours, lots of money and we finally got it going and we got it built,” local business owner Mike Hayes said. “The problem is nobody wants it.” Hayes is talking about the negotiations between the Tennessee Department of Transportation, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and the state. Hayes owns the Blue Bank Resort and has lived off the lake his whole life, and he said something has to be done about the old spillway. “The old spillway is in bad shape,” Hayes said. “There’s a chance it might blow out and we lose everything.” He said the level of the lake determines how well the economy in the area does. “When it’s hot and dry and we’re not getting rain, the leaking spillway costs the economy around here a lot of money,” Hayes said. State Rep. Andy Holt is also concerned with the agricultural impact of the new spillway, saying if it isn’t functioning properly it could flood local farms. “We recognize there has to be a balance between recreation use of Reelfoot Lake that all of us enjoy and all of us think is a great asset to this area, but we also have to realize people are trying to make a living out here using this land,” Holt said. Holt said after years of planning and construction, the new spillway is still inoperable and that this is an example of government at its worst. “The idea that the government is always the solution to every problem yet again proves to be an inaccurate assumption,” Holt said. Legislators, TDOT and the TWRA are still negotiating who will take responsibility and liability for the new spillway, which will determine when it will become operational. There is still no exact date when the new spillway will open, but Holt says he is confident it will be soon.