Work may be halted at the Chickamauga Lock for lack of money, but the stalled project is energizing a GOP rival to Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., who is being criticized for his "hyper partisanship."
Republican challenger Weston Wamp said today that Fleischmann isn't doing enough to work with Obama and other Democrats to gain funding to complete the $683 million project at the Chickamauga Dam in Hixson. President Obama's budget for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer, the agency responsible for building a new replacement lock, didn't provide any funding for the Chickamauga Lock in the fiscal 2015 spending plan unveiled Tuesday.
The lock project has been stalled for the past four years after the Corps spend nearly $180 million to design and building about half of the lock just below the Chickamauga Dam.
Wamp, the son of former Rep. Zach Wamp who helped launch the replacement lock project a decade ago, blamed Fleishmann for not meeting with President Obama when he came to Chattanooga last summer and for his repeated criticisms of the president and lack of bi-partisan efforts to fund the lock.
Wamp said his father and former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist got initial funding to start the new lock when Democrat Bill Clinton was in office.
"Unlike Congressman Fleischmann, they got things done through bi-partisan cooperation and so will I," the younger Wamp said.
Tyler Threadgill, a spokesman for Rep. Fleischmann, said the Chattanooga congressman helped change the funding formula for the Army Corps of Engineers to free up an extra $81.5 million in the current fiscal year for lock projects other than the Olmsted Lock in Ohio, which previously absorbed money available for new river locks.
"This year, thanks in large part to Congressman Fleischmann's leadership, real reform to the lock's funding mechanism is being implemented," Threadgill said.
"This is the first true change in the Inland Waterway's Trust Fund's history, which is an important step toward ensuring the future of the Chickamauga Lock. For years, prior to Congressman Fleischmann's tenure, actually fixing the lock was ignored in favor of short term political gain through earmarks. Congressman Fleischmann's priority is actual reform to secure the long term viability of the lock, not simply placing a Band-Aid on the problem."