Revitalizing Lake Hico and the surrounding area to be a viable economic asset for metro Jackson has been bandied about for years, but dreams of bringing the area back to life have officially come to an end.
Entergy recently closed the power plant there and is draining the lake at the request of the Jackson Public School District. The lake itself exists on 16th Section land which the district leased to Entergy to generate funds for the public school system.
The lake was constructed in the late 1950s to provide cooling ponds for electricity production by the Rex Brown Steam Engine Station of the Mississippi Power & Light Company, now Entergy. Entergy’s lease expired Oct. 31 this year and was not renewed.
Entergy’s Senior Lead Communications Specialist Mara Hartman told Mississippi Today that the Rex Brown Steam Engine Station, located at 1960 W. Northside Drive in Jackson, has reached the end of its useful life. The last remaining operating units at the plant were retired in June 2019 after nearly 71 years of service.
“We’re in the process of demolishing the remaining infrastructure of the plant and removing it, with expectations of that to be complete early next year. With the retirement of the plant, the body of water that served as the cooling water facility is no longer needed to provide electricity to the metro area,” Hartman said.
Named for Hinds County, Lake Hico was once home to the Jackson Yacht Club. That all ended in the 1960s at the height of the civil rights movement due to a reluctance to integrate. The yacht club moved its operation to the Ross Barnett Reservoir in Madison County, and the park was closed by the city in 1975.
After a lawsuit by a local resident, the park was reopened in 1985. Recreational use of the main lake remained forbidden. Lake Hico was fenced off from the public with only a smaller, adjacent, same-named park available for picnics, tennis, and basketball.
In September 2020, JPS directed Entergy to drain the lake and breach the levee. The power company owns the surrounding property Rex Brown is located on and will hold on to it “for potential future use,” Hartman said.