After closing in 2012 due to water draining into the aquifer below and endangering the fish population, the Ocmulgee Public Fishing Area, on the border of Bleckley and Pulaski counties, is set to reopen.
The General Assembly recently approved $2.3 million to repair the 106-acre lake. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources thinks it may have found a plan to fix it. The department’s chief of fisheries, John Biagi, says the job will be put out for bids within the next month. Engineers are still currently working on the design of the fix.
Work is expected to begin this fall, and construction will take approximately six months. Then it will only be a matter of time while waiting for the lake to fill. With Mother Nature playing a huge role in the lake being full again, it is difficult for biologists to know exactly when the lake will be ready to reopen. As of now, the projected date is sometime in 2017.
Although that may seem like a long time, the wait would be even longer if it weren’t for extra steps being taken to get the PFA reopened as soon as possible.
A lake would typically be stocked with fingerlings that would need a year or two to grow, but for this particular case, the fish for the lake are already growing. They have been set aside by the state in hatchery ponds, so it will be possible they will be fishing size and ready to catch by the time the lake is full.
The fish that were removed form the lake when it closed were relocated to other PFAs. Some adult fish will be taken from those lakes to add to the population at Ocmulgee PFA.
The lake was intensively managed by the state, therefore fisherman were regularly catching bass that were 6 pounds or more just a few years into the lake being opened.
Until now, it was uncertain what was causing the water to drain from the lake. Geologists now believe the water was leaking through a large area in the bed of the lake. The drought during this time also played a major role because the water level was down in the aquifer, creating a space for water to seep into.
The current plan is to remove a layer of the lake bed and put down geotechnical fabric similar to a silt fence used on construction sites. They will then cover that with a layer of nonporous clay that will be taken from another lake close by.