Chickamauga Dam concerns

Chickamauga Dam concerns

March 27th, 2012 in Opinion Free Press

Water pours out of all 11 spillways at Chickamauga dam in this file photo.

Water pours out of all 11 spillways at...

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

Most of us don't often think about the Chickamauga Dam on the Tennessee River, except when we're boating, swimming or fishing or when we drive across the bridge spanning the dam.

Of course, we enjoy the benefits of the Tennessee Valley Authority-generated electricity the dam helps provide.

The Chickamauga Dam lock was built in the 1940s. The aging lock is crumbling and very much needs to be replaced. The existing 360-foot by 60-foot lock is too small for today's large barges. It also has structural concrete problems.

A new and expanded Chicka-mauga Lock is estimated to cost $693 million, and work could be finished by 2018, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

So far, $186 million has been spent on a bigger replacement lock.

But work on the new lock is on hold because of a lack of money, and President Barack Obama's proposed budget for the 2013 fiscal year does not include any funds to maintain the existing lock.

The Corps estimates it will take at least another $507 million to finish the new lock at the dam.

But funding for repairs and new locks is inadequate because available funds are being absorbed by costly dam and lock repairs to the Olmsted Locks on the Ohio River.

Nevertheless, it's important to this region that we keep the lock open. If it closes, 318 miles of river upstream of Chattanooga would be cut off from river traffic.