Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

April 20, 2013

Structural integrity — Dam stabilization is important

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— t is rare to see a significant level of federal funding designated for a West Virginia-based project by the Obama administration. That probably has something to do with the fact that proud residents of the Mountain State have largely rejected President Barack Obama’s energy policies while also supporting his Republican challengers in both 2008 and 2012.

But that’s not to say that the administration is completing ignoring West Virginia. In fact, Obama’s proposed federal budget blueprint includes $30 million for the stabilization of the Bluestone Dam in neighboring Summers County.

Most residents of southern West Virginia, including families right here in Bluefield and Princeton, are quite familiar with the Bluestone Dam in Hinton. It’s a tremendous recreational area and tourism hot spot located just a few miles down the road. However, in recent years the dam itself and the thousands of West Virginians it keeps safe have been at risk because of serious structural problems, according to U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.

The veteran West Virginia lawmaker says rehabilitation of the dam has been a priority of the Huntington Corps since 2000. The dam does not meet the safety criteria of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or national engineering standards.

And a failure of the Bluestone Dam would cause catastrophic flooding along the New, Greenbrier, Gauley, Kanawha and Elk Rivers, putting more than 175,000 people at risk of flooding during severe weather. A potential failure could also cause property damages exceeding $21 billion. Such a failure simply can’t be allowed to happen.

Obama’s proposed budget correctly includes $30 million to install anchors throughout the Bluestone Dam and for engineering and design of the next phase of the stabilization project.

“As Congress works to reduce the deficit, it is important that funding for public safety projects in our communities is prioritized. And while we look for big ways to save, we must make smart investments in critical infrastructure projects,” Rockefeller said last week. “For more than 60 years, the Bluestone Dam has protected many homes and businesses along West Virginia’s rivers from flooding during severe weather saving billions of dollars in potential damages.”

We agree. The stabilization of the Bluestone Dam is a matter of public safety. And it is a project that must be prioritized.

It is our hope that the federal dollars for this emergency stabilization project included in Obama’s proposed budget will remain intact.