WORTHINGTON — Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., joined Worthington residents and members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Tuesday to celebrate the completion of the town’s riverbank protection project.

The project, which has been 17 years in the making, is designed to protect the town’s vacuum-type sewer line from erosion along the West Fork River.

The Army Corps of Engineers reinforced around 1,400 feet of riverbank, according to former Worthington Mayor Sandra Hulsey, who helped see the project through to completion.

“Whenever they put the sewer line through in 1992 and 1993, they put the sewer line right along the riverbank,” Hulsey said. “About 17 years ago, we started having floods, and the bank was eroding and eroding. And when I started really making calls, (the pipe) was in danger of being exposed. We would have had all of that raw sewage in the river.

“That’s when we began to call. … We needed to stabilize the riverbank.”

“They brought in tons and tons of (material). They packed the tow of the river up to the bank with tons of big rocks,” Hulsey said.

Capito spoke during the Worthington celebration and ribbon cutting, commending those involved for being proactive about a serious issue.

Capito said seeing a small town like Worthington come together to accomplish such a big goal is inspiring and a wonderful thing for the Mountain State.

“Projects like this just make it so nice to be a West Virginian,” Capito said. “To cobble together that kind of money is tough for a small town. Thank God for your perseverance and your caring. … These are your federal dollars at work. This is your dollars coming back to your community.”

The $1.3 million project was paid for mostly by the Army Corps of Engineers, although Worthington itself had to raise about 35 percent of the cost, gathering funding from sources like the Marion County Commission.

Hulsey said some of the federal money was almost taken away from the project several years ago before Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., then the state’s governor, secured funds for the project.

Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District Commander Col. John P. Lloyd, who has been with the Worthington project since the beginning, also commended the town’s residents for their forward-thinking attitude and assertiveness in getting the project completed.

“It just takes a small community, a little bit of passion and a little bit of help along the way,” Lloyd said during the celebration. “I am humbled to be here in Worthington. … While this project may seem small in stature as far as projects go, I will tell you that it’s not. At the end of the day, you took measure to prevent potential catastrophic infrastructure failure. There’s big cities that can learn from you.”

Capito agreed and said the project is a testament to the character of West Virginia’s citizens.

“You really have averted an environmental catastrophe,” Capito told the crowd. “It’s not just here in Worthington. It’s down the road and all recreation that occurs on this river. … I’m just glad to be a part of this.”

Capito also visited the Allegheny Wood Products plant in Preston County Tuesday, speaking at the 25th anniversary celebration of the facility in Kingwood.

“It is a thrill for me to be here and to see the Allegheny Wood Products plant here in Preston County,” Capito told the crowd, according to The Preston County News.

“Thank you for telling us about the growth and the ways the company is creating opportunities in the company and outside with the contractors. Thank you for your hard work every day,” Capito said.