Littering on the Barnett Reservoir spillway prompts officials to require permit

Fishermen just below the spillway at the Ross Barnett Reservoir (Source: WLBT)
Fishermen just below the spillway at the Ross Barnett Reservoir (Source: WLBT)
Published: Oct. 21, 2021 at 5:18 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 23, 2021 at 10:29 PM CDT
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RANKIN CO., Miss. (WLBT) - Fishers will soon have to have a permit to fish along the Barnett Reservoir spillway.

Tuesday, the Pearl River Valley Water Supply District Board of Directors voted to make the Spillway Recreation Area permit-only.

The new rule will go into effect on December 1 and will impact both sides of the Pearl River below the spillway dam.

PRV officials say the decision was made to help curb littering there.

“We hate it has come to this, but we have to create some feeling of accountability among other users to end this problem,” said Reservoir Director John Sigman. “We’ve looked at it from every angle and have invited input from our users, but the litter situation has not improved, and this has to change.”

When it comes to fishing, Alvin Murray said the Barnett Reservoir spillway is his go-to spot.

“I grew up here,” Murray said. “This would be the main spot we would come fish.”

Murray said he hates showing up to a bunch of litter but that the situation used to be a lot worse than it is now.

“You can still see trash around, but I would say it’s about 80 to 90% better than what it was,” Murray said.

Murray and Reservoir Police Chief Trevell Dixon credit a lot of that progress to a law that went into effect about three years ago, which requires fishermen to bring a trash container to pick up after themselves. But Dixon said the goal is to have no trash at all.

“This is just an additional thing so we can see who’s down there and hope to hold people accountable for litter and them leaving the trash behind,” Dixon said.

He said there’s ultimately three things that could get fishermen fined: not having a fishing license, not having a trash container, and not having this new permit in place.

As it relates to the new rule, Dixon said there’ll be a grace period for a couple months.

“We want to make sure that we do the educational portion first before we go into the enforcement side to give people time to get used to the newness of something they might not have been doing for the last 10 years,” Dixon said.

For now, Murray said he hopes people treat the spillway like they would their own place.

“It’s just like if it was on your own property,” he said. “You would want to keep it clean if you invite people over.”

The daily registration system will be free to the public and will be similar to daily check-in stations used by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks at its wildlife management areas.

Daily users will be required to obtain a permit form at one of the stations and fill it out before using the park area.

Cards are still being designed, but each one will have three parts: one to be left on the user’s car dashboard, one in the box of the permit station, and one to be carried by the user during his or her visit.

Violators will face a maximum fine of $100.

“From a safety standpoint, part of the information we’ll be getting off the dashboard card is a cell phone number that we can use to reach people in an emergency,” Reservoir Police Chief Trevell Dixon said. “There are times when people need to be notified that we are anticipating a rising river that will require the removal of vehicles from the parking lot on the northwest side.”

“This is moving back toward normal situations where you can go back on the lake,” said Sigman. “We do ask that boaters and fishermen be vigilant, and if they see something they think is this highly invasive weed, give us a call. Let us know, and we’ll go out there and investigate. Boaters can go back there and try to find those big bass that have been growing for three years without any interference from fishing lures.”

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