Final word on Okhissa reopening is expected

by Sean Dunlap

An formal announcement could be forthcoming soon from the United States Forest Service regarding the much-anticipated reopening of Franklin County’s Okhissa Lake, which has been shuttered since Nov. 15, 2021, for a series of long-planned improvements.

The man-made lake off U.S. Highway 98 is roughly 1,100 acres with 47 miles of shoreline.

It was slated to undergo numerous projects over the course of 16 months — including efforts to improve the quality of the fishery, reduce the biological and recreational impacts of an invasive species and improve the experience for lake visitors.

At the time of the closure, officials said they anticipated the recreational destination might reopen as early as March 15.

One of the biggest tasks was a drawdown of lake levels to stimulate future fish populations as vegetation was established on the exposed lake bottom to add nutrients to the water as the area refilled.

The drawdown will also a necessary step in the Forest Service’s efforts to aggressively treat an infestation of Giant Salvinia — a weed from southern Brazil that blocks sunlight, stagnates water, increases mortality and degrades the overall fishery.

Other planned enhancements were to include an extension of the existing boat ramp, stocking of additional pan and bait fish and other infrastructure upgrades to allow the public to more fully utilize the entire park facility.