Obama's proposed budget sets aside funds for Bluestone Dam - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Obama's proposed budget sets aside funds for Bluestone Dam

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President Barack Obama's proposed budget sets aside $30 million for a project to stabilize West Virginia's Bluestone Dam.

The dam, located on the New River in Hinton, provides approximately $70 million in flood protection savings annually and has saved nearly $5 billion over its 6- year lifespan, according to information from the office of Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va. The rehabilitation of the dam has been high on the Huntington Army Corps of Engineers' priority list for 13 years because the structure currently does not meet safety criteria of the Corps or national engineering standards.

Rockefeller applauded the move, saying Congress must continue to fund public safety projects that keep communities safe.

"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," Rockefeller said in a statement. "But recently the dam and the thousands of West Virginians it keeps safe have been at risk because of serious structural problems at the dam. I have been working for several years to secure the needed funding for the project, and addressing these issues today will save billions of dollars in damages that could result if future storms or disasters strike."

Failure of the dam could 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 and could cause damages exceeding $21 billion.

Obama's budget includes $30 million to install anchors throughout the Bluestone Dam and for engineering and design of the next phase of the rehabilitation project.

"I'm glad that President Obama understands the need to invest in the Bluestone Dam and other infrastructure that safeguards our families and neighbors, and I'm hopeful that this budget proposal helps pave the way for crucial resources for the dam," Rockefeller said.