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Update #2: Arkabutla Dam failure NOT imminent as USACE Vicksburg District assesses conditions, temporary solutions

USACE Vicksburg District
Published May 15, 2023

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Vicksburg District teams are assessing conditions and exploring temporary solutions at Arkabutla Dam following the May 8 emergency declaration.

Dam failure or breach are currently NOT imminent. USACE defines an imminent breach as: “the emergency level when time has run out, and the dam has breached, is breaching, or is about to breach. It is not usually possible to determine what amount of time a complete breach will take to develop. Therefore, once a decision is made that there is no time to prevent a breach, the emergency warning must be issued.”

The district continues to release water from the dam to achieve an elevation of 210 feet by approximately June 20, which will significantly decrease the risk of a failure. The controlled release reduces flood risk for surrounding low-lying areas and homes.

Dam releases flow into the Coldwater River, which is expected to crest at Sarah and Marks, Mississippi, in Tate and Quitman counties early this week. Sarah will crest at 12 feet and Marks at 34 feet. The district expects stages to remain at crest stages through at least the next few weeks. The district will monitor conditions based on future local rainfall and length of time releases are required from Arkabutla. Property owners near the river’s tributaries should plan to move livestock and heavy equipment as a precaution.

Current Interim Risk Reduction Measures (IRRM), or temporary solutions, include both structural modifications, increased instrumentation and monitoring, and emergency action planning. The district continues to assess the repairs timeline and will provide updates as they become available.

The district’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) activated after crews discovered a depression near the toe of the dam, where the dam meets the earth, which could cause severe foundation loss and a breach if left untreated.

Additional information about Arkabutla Dam (identification number MS01496) can be found at the National Inventory of Dams (NID) at https://nid.sec.usace.army.mil/#/dams/system/MS01496/summary.

Public safety is the district’s top priority. The district remains committed to working with the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), local law enforcement agencies, and surrounding counties and cities as the situation develops.

To report potential emergency concerns at the dam, contact the EOC at 601-631-5367. Specialists are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

For information about recreation closures or reservations, contact the Arkabutla Lake Field Office at 662-562-6261.

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.

The USACE Vicksburg District is engineering solutions to the nation’s toughest challenges. The Vicksburg District encompasses a 68,000-square-mile area across portions of Mississippi, Arkansas, and Louisiana, that holds nine major river basins and incorporates approximately 460 miles of mainline Mississippi River levees. The Vicksburg District is engaged in hundreds of projects and employs approximately 1,100 personnel.

Anna Owens

Release no. 23-016