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October 18, 2013

Okatibbee, Army Corps of Engineers back in business

MERIDIAN —     Mark Dean has been going seemingly in four different directions at one time as operations project manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Okatibbee Lake outside Meridian.

    With the ending of the partial government shutdown, all U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' team members are back at work and Dean and his personnel at the lake have been busy taking down barricades and opening the various parks.

    "We are open for business," Dean said Thursday. "It has been pretty hectic at times but we are in the process of getting everything ready for the people to come back to the parks."

    The partial shutdown affected Corps recreational areas, including campgrounds. The timing of the shutdown came at the portion of the year when Corps areas experience their "second" season.

    "The fall is a time when people love to camp out because the of the cooler weather and the fall foliage," Dean said. "The shutdown put a damper on that but we still have several more weeks of prime fall weather so we can salvage some of it."

    Rangers will thoroughly inspect campgrounds and parks before visitors can return, very similar to what is done following severe weather.

    After the inspections for safety and health related reasons, these recreational

areas are expected to be reopened.

    "We are accepting campers now but if you call to reserve a spot the earliest you will be able to make that reservation will be for the 22nd," Dean said. "But walk-ups are welcome now."

    Dean said the dam area that is a popular exercise portion of the Corps property is open. He said he doubted if anyone who comes out this weekend will really notice that the Corps was shut down.

    "It takes a while to crank up a machine like the federal government but it shouldn't take us long at all here to get back to normal," Dean said. "Give us another day or two and we'll be running like clockwork."

    During the shutdown, Corps regulatory offices were closed. Okatibbee Lake is part of the Mobile, Ala. district.

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