Pearl River Valley Water Supply District (PRVWSD) officials are at a loss as to how they can prevent reservoir visitors from placing steel reinforcement rods, or rebar, in the water.
The pieces of rebar jutting out of the water are hard to spot, putting Barnett Reservoir users in danger of damaging their watercrafts or getting hurt.
Reservoir General Manager John Sigman said officials have removed thousands of pieces of rebar and go out weekly for removal.
“We are still removing rebar,” Sigman said. “We go out several days each week as other work allows.”
Rodney Barbour, a resident of Palisades and regular reservoir user, spoke up at the latest meeting of the PRVWSD board meeting about the issue.
He regularly takes family and friends out on the water to ride in his boat or pull them around in a tube. Twice he has witnessed children narrowly miss a piece of rebar while enjoying these activities.
“The PRV board has done a great job at removing the rebar, but there has to be a way to stop the insanity of people putting rebar in the reservoir,” Barbour said. “A couple of weeks ago we had guests in from out of town. We had three kids in the tube.”
And, for the second time, Barbour said his tube barely missed a reinforcement rod, which could have severely injured one of the children.
“We went back to look for it and had trouble finding it even though we knew it was there,” Barbour said. “It’s hard to see.”
They removed the piece they found, but Barbour and PRVWSD officials know more will soon take its place.
Barbour said he has watched as people have placed rebar in the water, but they were able to drive away before he could take a photo of the boat or Reservoir Police Department could respond.
Now, the question is how to move forward.
When Barbour brought up this issue at a meeting last summer, the board purchased temporary signage to warn against this and
instituted a $1,000 fine for placing foreign materials in the water.
However, the problem is ongoing.
Barbour requested consideration of a reward for people who turn those caught putting rebar in the water.
Since the water level was lowered in October, rebar has been a bit easier to spot so they have been able to collect thousands of pieces. But the number is steadily growing.
“The lower water levels exposes more rebar. However, some areas are now very shallow and difficult to reach by boat,” Sigman said. “We have removed thousands of (pieces) of rebar. Sadly, some people are still putting out more.”
These bars are believed to be placed by boaters to mark stumps or fishing spots. But because the water level fluctuates, they may not be visible until it is too late causing damage to boats.
The steel rods are intended to mark the stumps so boaters will not hit them.
“They are being put out to mark stumps or obstructions people don’t want to hit with their boat or to mark a spot where they caught the last big fish,” Sigman previously told the Sun.
However, Sigman said the rebar can be more dangerous than the obstructions boaters intend to mark.
“In my opinion, the rebar causes more damage than the stumps will,” Sigman said. “We’ve seen rebar slice fiberglass boats open and do about $5,000 worth of damage.”
Local boat shops have repaired thousands of dollars worth of damage to boats that have come in contact with rebar.
Sigman encourages those who find obstructions or stumps in the reservoir to send in the GPS coordinates or call 601-992-9703 and PRVWSD officials will go out and take a look.
“We’ll go out there and look at it and mark it with a buoy if needed,” Sigman said.
Placing foreign material in the lake is punishable with up to a $1,000 fine.
“I ask the public to let us know if they see anyone putting out rebar,” Sigman said.