Rain forest infrastructure

I looked it up. To be considered a rain forest, annual rainfall in an area must be at least 65 inches.

We’re not quite there — yet.

But, according to the National Weather Service, in 2018 Parkersburg got 53.48 inches. So far in 2019, we’ve gotten about 10.

Basements that have been dry for years are suddenly springing leaks. Sinkholes are opening up. Sewer pipes are collapsing. Mud is sliding onto roads … dogs are refusing to go outside.

OK, maybe that last one is just at my house — my dog actually managed to wait almost 14 hours before finally giving in and going outside (quickly) the other day. Earlier attempts by me to get him to go out and do his business resulted in him sitting on my feet at the door. I even tried carrying an umbrella over his head. Nope.

When he finally did dash outside and back in, he dramatically shook the rain off his fur and gave me a look that clearly said “I blame you for this,” before he trotted back upstairs to his warm, dry bed.

Can’t say I blame him. Winter has been a sloppy mess. Mud season started a couple of months early.

The thing is, I vaguely recall having similar thoughts about this time last year.

When will it end? How much more can it possibly rain?

To steal an oft-shared social media post “Roses are wet; violets are wet; everything’s wet; please stop raining.”

It’s funny, and a bit of an inconvenience for most of us, but not really a big deal.

On the other hand, those sinkholes, mudslides, collapsed pipes and other infrastructure problems are no joke. A couple more years like this, and infrastructure that was already past its original life expectancy will see accelerated crumbling that begins to cause big problems.

It is — almost — possible to understand why lawmakers like state Sen. Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, thinks he can get away with claiming teachers would rather have money spent on fixing potholes than going toward pay raises. (Blair said, after the teachers went on strike again, that he wanted to take the $148 million that would have gone to some provisions of the vilified Senate Bill 451 and use them for secondary road projects in the state.)

“I had countless emails saying, ‘if you’re going to pass Senate Bill 451, I don’t want a pay raise,'” Blair claimed. “OK, I recognize that. Why not take this money and go out and fix the potholes, the culverts, clean the ditches so the roads will last longer? We have road problems across the state that’s just as big of a crisis.”

Well, mainly because there is already more than $200 million a year set aside for paving secondary roads, there is a mystery amount of money expected to come out of the Roads to Prosperity Bond funds, and rather than let the governor and the Transportation Department off the hook by allowing lawmakers to sneak bits of money into the fund here and there, taxpayers still want to know how in the world we got this far off track.

Oh, yes, and don’t forget the money that comes from oil and natural gas companies who simply build it into their budgets to fix the roads they tear up.

Anyway, as we’re all finding out, when it rains, it pours. And just as West Virginia officials were beginning to show cracks on the “nothing to see here, the roads (and other infrastructure) are all going to be just fine” front, Mother Nature is showing us how slippery a slope we might be on if we don’t get caught up on infrastructure maintenance — sorry, “preservation.”

It is a shame officials are overwhelmed just trying to get caught up on work that should have been done years, forget about planning ahead to the work that WILL need done next year … and the next.

Does that sound like “prosperity” to you?

Christina Myer is executive editor of The Parkersburg News and Sentinel. She can be reached via e-mail at cmyer@newsandsentinel.com

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