The Charleston Gazette
January 24, 2004
By The Associated Press
Pineville - Budget cuts could leave officials at R.D. Bailey Lake with no way to remove about 50 tons of trash, which might deprive many southern West Virginians of their favorite recreation spot.
Floodwaters in the region often send items ranging from propane tanks to bags of needles into the reservoir. In previous years, officials have received financial help from the federal government to painstakingly clean up the mess by spring recreation season.
This year, a war in Iraq and a struggling economy have made such spending unlikely.
"We have some critical money issues," said Steve Wright, public information officer for the Corps of Engineers in Huntington. "One of the problems is our [operation and maintenance] money has flat-lined. When costs continue to rise, at some point you run out of money."
In the Louisville, Ky., district, the corps is closing recreational areas because of a lack of funding, Wright said.
Although West Virginia has not reached that point, Wright said debris is a growing concern at several of the 35 flood control dams in the corps' Huntington district.
To remove debris at R.D. Bailey Lake, park crews tie logs together, then circle the floating trash with a boat, catching the waste items in the log sweeper. The collected debris is then pulled out of the water, onto the bank.
Crews then face the gargantuan task of manually separating the debris piece by piece, sorting the hazardous materials from mountains of ordinary household garbage and natural materials such as trees.
"There's everything anybody can imagine," said Brett Whitten, a maintenance contractor at the reservoir The R.D. Bailey Lake was constructed between 1967 and 1985 to control flooding along the Guyandotte and Ohio rivers. Since its inception, the 19,000-acre project has prevented an estimated $130 million in
flood damage and provides year-round recreational activities for nearly 700,000 annual visitors.
In 2001, Wyoming County suffered four severe floods in May and July. Two of those floods brought the lake to record levels and left behind acres of debris.
Last year, rainfall in Wyoming County was about 10 inches above normal. March flooding resulted in the second highest lake level on record, adding to the debris washing into the lake. More flooding followed in June and November.
"With every flood there will be additional debris," said Dean Bonifacio, project manager at the lake. "We want to get this cleaned up and we are requesting money to do that."
Whitten and others have contacted Rep. Nick Rahall and written letters to other federal officials in an effort to obtain funding for the cleanup. Rahall, D-W.Va., has promised to do what he can.