From a Rep. Nick Rahall Release

HINTON, WV – At a ceremony marking the completion of the latest phase of safety improvements at Bluestone Dam, U.S. Rep. Nick J. Rahall (D-WV) Monday warned that slashing federal funding for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers infrastructure projects could stall badly needed dam safety improvements across the country.

 

“Protecting life and limb and property, improving our quality of life, and laying a solid foundation for job creation – these are the bread and butter tasks of a government that works,” said Rahall, the top Democrat of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee who is calling for greater federal funding for such construction projects throughout the Nation. “Nationally, the American Society of Civil Engineers in their last report card on the state of our Nation’s infrastructure could only score our dams with the grade of ‘D.’  That’s a ‘D’ as in too doggone low.  Of the more than 85,000 dams in the country, a majority of them are over 51 years of age.  This Nation cannot continue to flirt with disaster.”

 

Earlier this year, the House of Representatives approved the Fiscal Year 2012 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill, which cut funding for the Corps by $677 million below FY 2010 levels.   Both Houses of Congress now await the work of a Congressional “Super Committee,” created to produce further budget savings, likely resulting in more cuts to basic infrastructure programs, as well as other areas of the budget.  The Super Committee is scheduled to report its recommendations by November 23rd.

 

Rahall stressed that Army Corps of Engineer infrastructure efforts make economic sense as public investments that return significant economic savings to the families, businesses, and communities in the regions they serve.

 

“This is one of those great Corps projects that baffle the mind in its scope and importance,” said Rahall in acknowledging the importance of the Corps’ efforts to reduce overall flood risk in the region.  “Since Bluestone Dam became operational, the Corps calculates it has saved us almost $5 billion by controlling flood threats and spared countless families and businesses days of misery.”

 

Today’s ceremony marked the completion of the Bluestone Dam Safety Assurance Project Phase 2B Initial Anchor Installation.  Phase 2B is the latest step in the Corps’ work to ensure the dam’s stability and provide an increase in the amount of flood waters that can safely be held by the dam.  Rahall, who has been working for years to secure funding to modernize and make safer the Bluestone Dam, noted that, teaming with former Senator Robert C. Byrd, he helped to secure over $219 million for upgrades to the Bluestone Dam. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided funding to increase the number of anchors to be installed in this phase and provided for reaming of gallery drains in the dam, making it possible for the dam to hold an additional 19 feet of flood storage.

 

Below are Rahall’s remarks, as prepared for delivery:

 

Remarks of U.S. Representative Nick J. Rahall

Bluestone Dam Safety Assurance Project Phase 2B

Initial Anchor Installation Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

Bluestone Dam

Hinton, WV

Monday, October 31, 2011; 11:00 a.m.

 

It is almost like déjà vu all over again here at the Bluestone Dam. One year ago, I was standing here breaking ground on a $48.5 million Phase 3 Dam Safety Assurance project that will help bring Bluestone Dam up to modern day safety standards and reduce overall risk to protect families and businesses alike. 

 

Today we are here for the Bluestone Phase 2B ribbon cutting ceremony – putting into use the initial anchoring efforts for the overall project – 216 high-strength, steel anchors for critical monoliths and installation of three sacrificial bulkheads on the remaining penstocks. You get all that?

 

Let’s just say this is one of those great Army Corps projects that baffle the mind in its scope and importance.  For you and me it means the dam will be able to hold 19 additional feet of flood waters and will protect people throughout the Kanawha Valley – from Charleston to Point Pleasant and even all the way to Huntington.

 

Since Bluestone Dam became operational, the Corps calculates it has saved us almost $5 billion by controlling flood threats. Certainly this dam has spared families and businesses countless days of misery. 

 

For those here in Hinton, it means tourist dollars as people enjoy our beautiful man-made Bluestone Lake.  This project is an example what happens when the best of American ingenuity and large scale infrastructure projects come together – we all can see and enjoy the benefits.

 

As I said a year ago, infrastructure projects like this one spell three things:  immediate jobs, long-term jobs, and jobs for future generations. In total, over the last decade, working in conjunction with Senator Byrd, I helped to secure over $219 million for upgrades to the Bluestone Dam.

 

I view each of those dollars as a sound investment in our future. Protecting life and limb and property, improving our quality of life, and laying a solid foundation for job creation -- these are the bread and butter tasks of a government that works.

 

Sadly, the work going on here at Bluestone Dam is an exception.  Nationally, the American Society of Civil Engineers in their last report card on the state of our nation’s infrastructure could only score our dams with the grade of ”D.”  That’s a “D” as in doggone too low.

 

West Virginians know all too well the gross tragedy that results from unsafe impoundments.  The lessons of Buffalo Creek must never be forgotten.  

 

Of the more than 85,000 dams in the country, a majority of them are over 51 years of age. 

 

This nation cannot continue to flirt with disaster.

 

My daily message in the Congress is clear – investing in infrastructure saves lives and scarce tax dollars. You don’t get goods to market over broken bridges. You can’t make a living if you are battling flood waters.  And you need water and wastewater service to start to live the American dream.

 

Past Congress’s understood there are no Republican, no Democrat bridges or dams -- there are only America’s dams and bridges. They understood that a dollar deferred in maintenance is a dollar lost.

 

Today, we are fighting just to keep our Highway bill funding at current levels, which many experts tell us are already grossly too low.  Many in the majority party seem to want to believe a drastic nationwide16% cut will fly; well, I am here to tell you that cuts to infrastructure funding won’t stand, walk, drive, or fly with me. That’s especially true because on so many fronts we have a long way to go.

 

Here at Bluestone – we have completed two phases, but three more lie ahead. I will be here for you, focused on completing Bluestone’s 1930’s design update, marking our progress as flood protection is increased for the 21st Century.

 

I will keep fighting from the federal level, long and hard, to keep building for my fellow West Virginians the foundation – the fundamental state-of-the-art infrastructure no locality could ever afford on its own – so that we can not only compete, but also prosper along with the rest of our great nation.  To me, that is a critical role for good government and one that I will not ever neglect. 

 

I will keep pushing from Washington.  You keep pulling from West Virginia.  And together we will ensure for our State that better, brighter future our children and grandchildren deserve.