EARLY in 1941, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began constructing the Bluestone Dam, just upstream from the confluence of the New and Greenbrier rivers.
World War II briefly interrupted the work, but the government completed the dam for operational purposes in 1949.
Engineers estimate that the dam has spared the state billions of dollars in flood damages over the years. But a decade ago, engineers discovered the dam needed to be raised by eight feet and anchored. While much work has been done, more is needed.
Unfortunately, after a few years of trillion-dollar deficits, the federal budget is a mess, and that has put in doubt even worthy projects such as the upkeep of a dam.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., lobbied the administration to keep funding this long-term project. He had success.
"I have been working over 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," Rockefeller said in a press release.
"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."
That is a good outcome, and this episode shows why senators should be very reluctant to expand the government.
When President Franklin Roosevelt first committed the federal government to this project in 1935, Medicaid, Medicare and even Social Security did not exist.
Now they consume easily half the federal budget. That does not leave much money to spare.
Rockefeller deserves praise for reminding Obama of the government's commitment to upgrade this dam to the tune of $30 million in funding next year.