published Thursday, February 24th, 2011

Fleischmann to work for funding for Chickamauga lock project

U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., wants to cut federal spending, but he insists the government has a national security interest in resuming funding of the stalled Chickamauga Lock in Chattanooga.

While the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spends more than $3 million a year to shore up the crumbling lock built at the dam in the early 1940s, there is no money in either the current budget or the White House budget for next year to finish building a new lock.

Because of delays in funding and additional costs for some of the retaining wall construction, the initial $268 million estimate for building the new lock a decade ago has grown to an estimated $634 million.

In Chattanooga on Wednesday, Fleisch-mann pledged that he will work to change the federal funding formula to provide the money needed to finish a new and bigger lock at the Chickamauga Dam.

"This lock is critical to our national security and to the great commerce we have moving up and down the (Tennessee) river," Fleischmann said after touring the lock. "I'm committed to funding the lock."

Since work began on the new lock nearly a decade ago, nearly $200 million has been spent to reroute roads, design and engineer the new lock and build a retaining wall and a coffer dam, a dry area in which the new lock will be erected.

BY THE NUMBERS

* $29 million -- Amount spent since 1999 on redressing concrete problems with the existing Chickamauga Lock, including $3.5 million this year

* $634 million -- New estimate for total cost of new and larger lock

* $268 million -- Original 2001 cost estimate

* 5 -- Number of years needed to finish work on the new lock

Source: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

But since 2009, the main funding source for the Chickamauga Lock has run dry. The Inland Waterways Trust Fund, equally funded by barge fuel taxes and Army Corps of Engineers appropriations, has been drained by declining tax revenues and rising costs for completing the Olmsted Dam and Lock on the Ohio River between Kentucky and Illinois.

Jo-Ellen Darcy, the assistant secretary of the Army for civil works, said last week that the White House rejected a barge industry proposal for a fuel tax increase combined with more federal funds for the Olmsted Dam. But she pledged to work with Congress "to find a way to recapitalize not only our Inland Waterways Trust Fund but also our aging infrastructure as a whole."

Most of the Chickamauga Lock funding over the past two years came from the federal stimulus package, which Fleischmann opposed. But the freshman congressman praised "the outstanding work" completed so far at the lock and said the project has been handled better than some by the corps.

Wayne Huddleston, project manager for the Chickamauga Lock, estimates the new lock can be completed in five years from the time work resumes.

In the meantime, the corps is spending $3.6 million this year and the White House has proposed spending an additional $3.09 million next year to shore up the older, crumbling lock.

"Although we are doing all we can to maintain this lock, we run the risk of some failure that could close the lock down that could cut off river access to Oak Ridge, TVA's nuclear plants and other industry upstream of Chattanooga," Huddleston said.

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cannonball said...

Why not require some sort of fee from those who actually use the lock. I never use so why take my hard earned money. I see barge traffic and recreation boaters using it. Let them pay for it.

February 24, 2011 at 5:56 a.m.
inquiringmind said...

National security? You never know when the Georgians and all those Russians are going to invade Tennessee.

This is the classic hypocrisy of the tea-partiers. Cut funds, just be sure it is someone else who suffers the consequence.

February 24, 2011 at 6:34 a.m.
moonpie said...

As predicted, Chuck is against pork unless it's his.

February 24, 2011 at 6:44 a.m.
Facts said...

Is there anything this guy does without Chip Saltsman?

February 24, 2011 at 6:58 a.m.
docspop said...

I worked on the lock in 1983 to pull the lock wall back into place.A 1 million dollar study was made at that time to see if the lock needed to be replaced.Why has it taken almost 25 years to even get started?The money used to do these studies could have been used for construction.All of these studies are just to keep these engineers a job. It's the same way at these nuclear plants.Engineers looking for ways to make modifications so they will have a job.Not long ago at Watts Bar nuclear there were more engineers there than construction workers.TVA and Corps projects are a dumping ground for these engineers.Get rid of the dead weight and finish the job.

February 24, 2011 at 8:17 a.m.
alohaboy said...

Chattanooga's big dig, costs rise at nearly 10% per year. Take that money and add a truck lane all the way to Knoxville and have money left over to cover the cost of upkeep of the existing lock. Homeland security is the latest place to hide your pork in DC. Right, Chuck??

February 24, 2011 at 10:42 a.m.
rockman12 said...

So much for the Republican promise to cut spending. Chuck just proved that its government business as usual. If the lock is so important, then let those who use it pay for it. Oh I forgot, Chuck don't want business to pay for it because that would be the friends of the Republican party paying for it. Make TVA pay for it and use it to produce hydro-electric, then it would pay for itself. Oh, cant do that either, it would take money from rich business again. Can't have that. I guess the only other option is to increase the national debt (don't forget Chuck, you promised not to do that) or get rid of it all together. I say demolish it, and it will not cost anywhere near $684,000,000 (wow that's a lot of zero's). As for the claim that its needed for national security is non-sense. Since when do we have to worry about being invaded by fish. We have two wide open borders that anyone that wants to come into this country can. The Tennessee river is not a major pathway for people to come into our country. Sorry Chuck, nice try, better luck on the excuses in the future. Just remember people, he lied to you to get elected and now he is back to business as usual, got to love politicians. Hold him to his promise of no pork barrel spending, smaller government, and lower taxes. If he doesn't follow through on his promises, THEN HE MUST BE A DEMOCRAT.

February 24, 2011 at 12:41 p.m.
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