Corps budget allocates $76.5 million this year for building new Chickamauga Lock

Chattanooga Times/Free Press

June 11–The Army Corps of Engineers has allocated $76.5 million in the current fiscal year to continue work on the new and bigger replacement lock at the Chickamauga Dam in Chattanooga.

Under the work plan released last week by the Corps following Congressional approval this spring of a final budget for fiscal 2018, the Corps will get its biggest single annual appropriation since the Chickamauga Lock project was initially authorized more than a decade ago. The funding in the current fiscal year from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund will allow the Corp to proceed with lock chamber contracts, including engineering, design and supervision of ongoing work at the Chattanooga dam site.

The original Chickamauga Lock, erected along with the dam in the 1940s, suffers from concrete growth and the narrow lock can only accommodate one barge at a time. The new and bigger lock will ensure long-term river navigation is maintained on the upper 318 miles of navigable waters on the Tennessee River.

“This funding will be enough to continue construction of the new Chickamauga Lock for the fourth consecutive year, which is great news for East Tennessee since it will help keep up to 150,000 trucks off I-75 and keep the cost of shipping goods low for Oak Ridge, Y-12, and manufacturers across the state,” U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said today. “More U.S. senators ask to increase funding for the Army Corps of Engineers than any other part of the budget. This year, Congress worked hard to provide record funding for the Corps to ensure we could keep federal lock and dam projects funded for the fourth consecutive year, which was important for Chickamauga Lock after the project was restarted in 2015.”

Alexander has made completion of Chickamauga Lock one of his top priorities as chairman of the Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee, which is responsible for recommending funding levels for the Army Corps of Engineers.

The lock was originally built by the Tennessee Valley Authority. Its replacement is being built by the Corps of Engineers, which using the Inland Waterways Trust Fund that is equally paid for by barge operators which pay a fuel tax and the federal treasury from the U.S. government budget.

The Corps has already spent more than $200 million toward the new lock, but because of delays in funding and other problems, the cost of the project has grown to about $850 million.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Waterways Council, Inc.