Lamar Alexander says U.S. Senate vote next week could help restart work at stalled Chickamauga Lock

Lamar Alexander says U.S. Senate vote next week could help restart work at stalled Chickamauga Lock

May 1st, 2013 by Dave Flessner in Local - Breaking News

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said today that the Water Resources Development Act will include language to boost the priority of the Chickamauga Lock replacement in the budget for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Photo by Tim Barber/Times Free Press.

The U.S. Senate will vote next week on a measure that could help restart work on the stalled replacement lock at the Chickamauga Dam.

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said today that the Water Resources Development Act up for a Senate vote next week will include language to boost the priority of the Chickamauga Lock replacement. Alexander said a Senate subcommittee agreed to include language from legislation he introduced last year to try to revive work on the lock, which stalled two years ago when money ran out of the trust fund that pays for lock improvements.

Alexander told reporters today at the Chickamauga Dam that work on the lock project could be revived in two to four years, if the measure is approved and Congress also agrees to an industry request to boost fuel taxes on barges to pay for more lock upgrades.

Alexander has proposed providing more taxpayer money to complete Olmsted Lock and Dam project on the Ohio River and to raise barge fuel taxes to help fund more Corps projects like the Chickamauga Lock.

The Chickamauga Lock was built in 1940 and suffers "concrete growth," which could force the existing lock to shut down within the next decade. The new lock, which was started nearly a decade ago and is now nearly half completed, is projected to cost more than $600 million. It would be bigger than the existing lock and could handle more barges.

The Corps has spent more than $185 million on building the new lock at the Chickamauga Dam. But most of the work stopped two years ago when funding through the 2009 stimulus package ran out. The Corps and the Tennessee Valley Authority, which built the Chickamauga Dam, continue to operate the existing lock with aggressive maintenance requirements.

See tomorrow's Times Free Press for complete coverage.