Because Alabama is such a water-rich state, Alabama would be on the list for such a center.
Because Alabama has one of the most powerful senators on Capitol Hill, Richard Shelby, the state was in a good position to get the $18.8 million facility built here.
And because Shelby has close ties to his alma mater, the University of Alabama, it stands to reason that Tuscaloosa would be an ideal place to build it.
All of these factors came together recently, and now the research complex will be constructed in Tuscaloosa, hard against the university that Shelby loves.
There are at least two ways to look at this.
On one hand, Shelby has again brought home the federal bacon — or pork, if you prefer. At a time when the budget-cutting knives are being sharpened in Washington and opposition to “earmarks” is reaching a fevered pitch, Alabama’s avowed fiscal-conservative senator has handed his state yet another federal plum.
Do as I say, not as I do, right?
On the other hand, research into water policy and safety is the sort of thing the federal government should be funding. Tuscaloosa, on the Black Warrior River and with a university already noted for its hydrology and other water studies, is an excellent location. Since the center will not be part of the university, other institutions, such as Auburn University, will be able to participate in its programs. This could make the state a leader in water-related activities.
In this case, it’s good that Shelby understands that not all federal spending is excessive and unnecessary, that Washington can create jobs, and that sponsoring research for the public good is an important role for government.
We also hope that Alabama will become a center for water-related research, and that the state Legislature will finally create and pass a comprehensive state water-management plan — or, maybe, the Legislature is hoping researchers at this new center will do that. There is precedent for that.