Millard Lake is still in the works, maybe

Published 2:20 pm Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Some Pearl River County officials still believe that despite the bad economic outlook and tight government budgets, a major 950-acre lake project at Millard, which some have termed Lake Troy after the late supervisor Troy Stockstill, still might have a chance of seeing the light of day.

Others believe that with the bad economy, things look bleak for the project ever seeing the first shovel of dirt turned.

Right now county officials are awaiting a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before pursuing funding for the project, which would see the proposed project turned into an upscale housing development, a recreational and vacation area and, a lake stocked with bass, hopefully becoming one of the premiere fishing spots in the Southeast.

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This is what is envisioned.

However, it’s a long ways from the vision to reality right now with the economy the way it is.

Some real estate agents in Pearl River County say the housing market is the worst they have seen it. “I have to say that it is the worst I have ever seen,” says long-time Realtor James Fleming. “It is even worse than during the Carter years, when interest rates were high and inflation was 20 percent.”

Housing would be a big part of the Lake Troy project.

Critics point to the proposed lake’s location right next door to the county’s Millard jail facility, which houses 400 inmates, and environmentalists don’t like the idea of damming up the East Hobolochitto Creek, which drains the central-eastern section of the county and connects with West Hobolochitto in Picayune behind the Hermitage.

One environmental group wrote the Corps that damming up East Boley would destroy the oyster crop in the Gulf, said county administrator Adrain Lumpkin.

However, Lumpkin says studies have shown the lake would help control flooding along the lower reaches of the Hobolochitto Creek system, and he says that there is still a possibility of coming up with the money for the project, despite the hard economic times. He has been working on the project for about nine years.

Others disagree with Lumpkin’s views.

The lake would be located just to the east of the jail on the Millard-Savannah Road just off the Millard Exit 19. Would prospective residential occupants like living that close to a large jail facility? The jail, however, seems the project’s only major drawback.

The lake would actually extend across the current road bed. If the lake is built, a bridge would have to be built to take the road over the south end of the lake.

It is a prime location, sure to grow as the county comes out of its recession with the rest of the nation. One developer, who asked that his name not be used, said that if liquor-by-the-drink were okayed for the development, “something like this would boom with fine dining and restaurants, if the economy ever gets right.”

It is almost dead-center in the middle of the county, drawing from the far north and the south and Picayune.

Louisianans would surely flock to the destination what with easy access up Interstate 59 to Exit 19 at Millard,  19 miles north from the state line. It would be only about an hour-and-a-half from Canal Street in New Orleans.

Former supervisor Danny Wise said that former supervisor Stockstill, who died in office in 2005, was the “brain child” behind the project, and Wise said at one time before the economic slump hit, there was much momentum for the project.

Officials from the Mississippi Development Authority, mainly Leland Speed, Gov. Haley Barbour, U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor and some other powerful officials were behind the project one time, says Wise.

Even the landowner, Weyerhaeuser, was all for it, wanting to development some high end developments along the proposed lake, said Wise.

“Now the way the economy is, I don’t know where the development stands,” he said.

“I thought we would finally get the project off the ground, but when I left in 2008, there was still a lot of ground to be covered,” said Wise.

Wise was former supervisor in District 2.

He chose not to seek re-election.

Current District 3 Supervisor Hudson Holliday on Monday said that the project is still alive as far as he is concerned. In fact, he says that he wants a meeting set up between supervisors and officials of the Pat Harrison Waterway District, headquartered in Hattiesburg, about bringing Pearl River County into the district.

Pat Harrison manages Flint Creek near Wiggins, Little Black Creek near Lumberton  and a number of other large lakes, Holliday said. The district has access to resources and the expertise to put together a large project like Lake Troy, he added. The waterway district covers 18 counties in South Mississippi.