By Jody Brumage
In the middle of his first term in the United States Senate in 1963, Senator Robert C. Byrd secured federal appropriations to support flood control and river navigation projects. Many of these projects were authorized through the Flood Control Act of 1962 which authorized the use of federal funding, administered through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to construct dams, levies, and other flood protection infrastructure. In West Virginia, several projects authorized under this legislation were located along the Ohio River which forms the western border of the state and has historically acted as a major industrial transportation route for coal and other goods and resources. In 1965, Senator Byrd successfully increased funding for flood control projects in West Virginia to $45 million and initiated a series of programs to take advantage of the many facets of these large infrastructure projects.
One of the dams developed under this legislation and supported by Senator Byrd’s efforts was the Belleville Dam and Lock, located on the Ohio River about halfway between Ravenswood and Parkersburg, West Virginia. Preliminary surveys on the site began in 1963 and by 1964 advanced to construction. The Belleville Dam required the excavation of over 961,000 cubic yards of earth and the pouring of 179,110 cubic yards of concrete. A series of 8 gates in the dam can be raised and lowered to various degrees to regulate water flow on the Ohio. Construction of the dam and its associated lock, built on the Ohio side of the river to allow boat traffic to bypass the dam, was completed near the end of 1968.
"It is a pleasure for me to see a multi-purpose use of major facilities like the Belleville Dam. The recreation potentials are being explored to their fullest and will be developed for public use."
Senator Robert C. Byrd, 1965