Photograph by Joe Mac Hudspeth, Jr. · www.southernfocus.com
What We Do
Bee Lake Watershed Restoration
The Bee Lake Watershed consists of 12,000 acres of prime farmland in Holmes County, MS. The 1,400-acre oxbow is the focal point of the watershed, providing excellent public fishing as well as water supply for agricultural irrigation purposes. Despite the wonderful aesthetics found within and around the lake, many environmental issues lay hidden from the laymen’s eyes. The weir that maintains the water level has begun to fail. Without the weir, the lake would nearly dry up. The lake also has a significant coontail weed problem. This reduces the surface acres of the lake that is accessible by boat, and when it dies back each fall, the decaying plant material reduces dissolved oxygen levels and stresses the fishery. Another problem is the amount of sediment that is reaching the lake from surrounding agricultural fields. Where large ditches enter Bee Lake, the lake’s depth is noticeably shallower. These issues and others have put an ominous cloud over the lake.
In 2005, a Bee Lake Watershed Implementation Team, consisting of over 40 professional resource agency staff, landowners, and other stakeholders, convened to develop the Bee Lake Watershed Implementation Plan. After nearly a year of revisions and continued consensus building, the Team released the final draft in June of 2006.
The Plan identified and prioritized issues including sediment, lake level, noxious aquatic weeds, organic enrichment, future development, fisheries management, and public access for immediate action. Within weeks of the Plan’s release, engineers began survey and design of structures to address erosion, sedimentation, lake level, and organic enrichment. State fisheries biologists began to develop new fisheries management plan, a noxious aquatic weed control plan, and initiated a feasibility study for funding a new boat ramp on the lake. And, the landowners began discussing the establishment of a homeowners association around the lake to control future development.
Installation of over 125 structural BMPs to reduce sedimentation and organic enrichment began in September 2006, and were completed in November 2007. Implementation of vegetative BMP’s began in the spring of 2007 with 7.5 acres of native warm season grass buffer strips planted, and approximately 100 acres of riparian forest buffers are scheduled for planting in the spring of 2008. Preliminary monitoring data indicates a 68.5% decrease in turbidity from the winter of 05/06 to the winter of 06/07. This is the same time period in which most structural BMP’s were installed. In March 2007, a 40 acre portion of Bee Lake was treated for coontail with Sonar® herbicide. The chemical application was a great success, restoring boating and fishing opportunities in that particular portion of the lake. Weir construction is scheduled for the summer of 2008. A fisheries management plan and bathymetry model has been drafted by MDWFP and should be complete in the fall of 2008.
A copy of the Bee Lake Watershed Implementation Plan may be downloaded from the RESOURCE section of the website.