As construction on the Belleville Dam and Lock progressed, Senator Byrd investigated ways to achieve the most benefit from the federally-funded project for West Virginia. The dam already served two roles: improving the navigability of the Ohio River to facilitate increased shipping and providing new flood control infrastructure for the river and the many cities and towns located along its banks and tributaries. A third benefit from the dam project was recreational opportunities. In meetings with his committee staff, Senator Byrd reviewed the options and the costs associated with adding features such as fishing piers, boat ramps, and picnic areas to make the reservoirs associated with these dams places for public recreation. In 1965, Senator Byrd announced that a recreational complex would be added to the Belleville Dam including a boat ramp, visitor services facility, drinking fountains, and picnic sites.
The precedent set by the Belleville Dam and Lock inspired similar projects across the state. Of West Virginia’s over thirty major dams and reservoirs, half of them provide recreational facilities similar to the ones planned by Senator Byrd at Belleville. Another benefit of dam and reservoir projects that has been slower to be realized is hydropower. Despite several unsuccessful attempts to build-in hydroelectric generating plants at locations throughout West Virginia, at least four have been constructed on the Cheat, Potomac, and Gauley Rivers. The work at Belleville also instructed future plans for appropriations projects which Senator Byrd supported throughout his career, capitalizing on the many beneficial economic, educational, and job creation impacts federally-funded infrastructure projects could bring to West Virginia.
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