Budget bill doubles funding for Chickamauga Lock replacement work

Chattanooga Times/Free Press

March 22–The budget compromise moving through Congress this week will more than double funding for work on the new Chickamauga Lock this year, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said today.

Alexander, the chairman of the Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee responsible for recommending funding levels for the Army Corps of Engineers, said the government funding bill will pay for all planned construction of the new lock work this year in Chattanooga. The measure being voted on in both the U.S. Senate and House for fiscal 2018 provides another $78 million for ongoing work on the new Chickamauga Lock, which will replace the smaller and crumbling existing lock first opened in 1940.

The $1.3 trillion spending package set for a vote in both Congressional chambers prior to Friday’s possible government shut down provides $6.8 billion to the Army Corps of Engineers, a new record funding level in a regular appropriations bill.

“More U.S. senators ask to increase funding for the Army Corps of Engineers than any other part of the budget, so I am very glad we were able to provide record funding this year,” Alexander said in a statement today. “This is great news for East Tennessee since the new lock (at the Chickamauga Dam) will help keep up to 150,000 trucks off I-75 and keep the cost of shipping goods low for manufacturers across the state.”

The Army Corps of Engineers, which is building the new lock, has spent more than $200 million over the past 11 years to design and start building the new Chickamauga lock. But as work has been delayed by budget shortfalls over the past decade, the cost of the new lock has more than doubled to $850 million.

Alexander said the Corps budget for inland waterways projects was aided by the increase four years ago in the fuel taxes paid by barge operators and by increased matching taxpayer funds int o the Inland Waterways Trust Fund.

The bill also provides $1.7 million for dredging at Memphis Harbor McKellar Lake, and provides a total of $1.4 billion from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, for the most critical maintenance needs at our nation’s ports and harbors.

The Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for maintaining and rebuilding locks and dams, dredging rivers and harbors, working to prevent floods and storm damage, and building environmental restoration projects.

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.