Despite a White House budget proposal to cut spending on Army Corps of Engineers projects next year by more than 16 percent, the omnibus appropriations measure moving through Congress this week for the current fiscal year should provide up to $19.3 million to continue construction of the Chickamauga lock in Chattanooga.
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Appropriations Energy and Water Development Subcommittee, and U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., vice chairman of the House Appropriations Energy and Water Development Subcommittee, said Monday the fiscal year 2017 Omnibus Appropriations bill provides a record high $6.038 billion to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The increased funding should ensure work continues on the new Chickamauga lock being built to replace the existing 77-year-old structure suffering from concrete growth in its rock aggregate.
"This funding will continue construction of Chickamauga lock for the third consecutive year, which is great news for not only Chattanooga, but to all of East Tennessee because it will help keep 150,000 trucks off I-75 and keep the cost of shipping goods low for Oak Ridge, Y-12 and manufacturers across the state," Alexander said in a statement.
Fleischmann said the budget agreement scheduled for a vote this week "marks another great step forward for our Inland Waterways Trust Fund projects, especially Chickamauga lock.
"The necessary restructuring of the Inland Waterways Trust Fund and increased funding will ensure there is enough money to continue work on the important Chickamauga lock," Fleischmann said in a statement.
The original lock was built in 1940 by the Tennessee Valley Authority, but the Army Corps of Engineers is building its replacement — a bigger lock estimated to cost $755 million to complete. So far, the Corps has spent about $200 million on the new lock.
Fleischmann and Alexander worked over the past three years to increase the barge fuel tax to provide extra money into the Inland Waterways Trust Fund which pays for locks and dams on America's inland waterways.
A preliminary budget presented in March by President Trump's Office of Management and Budget proposed to cut the budget in fiscal 2018 for the Army Corps of Engineers from more than $6 billion this year to only $5 billion next year.
Alexander has promised to work to revise that preliminary White House spending plan.
Contact Dave Flessner at email@example.com or at 423-757-6340.
This story was updated May 1 at 11:30 p.m.