published Thursday, May 16th, 2013

Senate bill would resume work on Chickamauga lock


by Chris Carroll
  • photo
    The towboat Bearcat pushes barges toward the lock at the Chickamauga Dam.
    Photo by John Rawlston.
    enlarge photo

WASHINGTON — The Senate on Wednesday passed a water and transportation bill that could resume construction at the unfinished lock at Chickamauga Dam.

"This legislation helps ensure that about 6.7 million tons of cargo can move through the lock, keeping 100,000 heavy trucks off Interstate 75," said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.

But the Water and Resources Development Act must pass the House, where anything could happen. Committee members there plan to draft their own version of the bill.

At 73 years old, the existing lock at Chickamauga Dam is experiencing "concrete growth" and other forms of deterioration. Safety and engineering experts say it could be a few years from shutting down.

But construction of a new lock stopped when money ran out.

Paired with an increase in barge fuel taxes, lawmakers have said, the bill that passed Wednesday could shift money from other waterways projects to the Chickamauga Dam.

But a local lock fix faces hurdles in the House, where conservatives are reluctant to support anything that could be construed as new taxes or fresh government spending.

Contact staff writer Chris Carroll at ccarroll@timesfreepress.com or 423-280-2025.

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