Old spillway still operating as new sits nearby - WPSD Local 6: Your news, weather, and sports authority

Old spillway still operating as new sits nearby

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LAKE COUNTY, TN - Chances are if you've been to or heard about Reelfoot Lake in Lake County, Tennessee, it involved fishing. The popular destination attracts thousands every year. For the past several years, locals have been swapping more than fish stories. They're comparing theories as to why a brand new spillway is sitting still while the old one remains in use. 

The Tennessee Department of Transportation started construction on the new spillway in 2010 and finished in 2012. Responsibility then transferred to the Tennessee Wildlife Refuge Agency who has control now, although, they say the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department will ultimately run the new spillway. 

David McKinney, with TWRA, told Local 6, even though it looks as though nothing is happening at the new spillway site, studies are under way so they can write an operating manual for the next agency. 

Hayes doesn't buy it. He thinks the TWRA should maintain control of the spillway. After all, Tennessee spent the money on it. 

"Why should we give something we spent more than $20 million for to Fish and Wildlife and then we wouldn't have any control over it," he said. 

Hayes admits there has been an ongoing debate about the lake levels at Reelfoot. Anglers don't want the water too high and farmers on the other side of the spillway don't want to get flooded out. McKinney said that is not what's being debated now. They are gathering the information they got from their tests and are writing reports. Those reports will be used to help write the operating manual, which could take four to six months to write. 

McKinney and Hayes agree that when the switch does happen, the impact should be minimal. The new spillway should operate just as the old one and keep lake levels where they are now. 

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