Chickamauga lock project funding could be in jeopardy - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Chickamauga lock project funding could be in jeopardy

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There's new concern the Chickamauga Lock project might not get the funding it needs. It's a project more than a decade in the works but a new study from the Army Corps of Engineers found the estimated cost to build a new lock has more than doubled the initial estimate. Our partners at the Times Free Press report a 60-percent drop in barge traffic.

When construction began, it was going to take $310 million but now it’s estimated to cost more like $858 million.

"The further we go out on any construction project, the more it’s going to cost," said Congressman Chuck Fleischmann. "It’s cheaper today to do a project 10 years from now, that's why we want to focus on getting funding for the new lock obviously to keep our costs down and to get it done."

Congressman Fleischmann said there are certain things like grain and coal that can only be moved by water. He and Sen. Lamar Alexander said if this lock doesn't get built, Tennessee drivers would notice an extra 150,000 trucks on the road.

Just last month, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers allocated $3 million from Congress to restart construction on Chickamauga Lock this year. That funding is to be used for prep work so the Corps can begin replacing the lock. Specifically, the $3 million would be used to place grout on cracks in the cofferdam, a temporary dam built in the water near the lock that creates a dry work environment so repairs can begin.

Congress had raised the free that barges pay as they pass through the lock in the pass year. Alexander said the money put about $700 million into President Obama’s budget for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Funding will be made available starting October 1 and reconstruction will take several years. The lock is fourth on the high priority list of essential American waterways.

  1. Olmsted: $3.1 billion
  2. Lower Mon: $2.7 billion
  3. KY Lock: $862 million
  4. Chickamauga Lock: $858 million

The rehabilitation work was originally scheduled to be completed by 2014. But budget restrictions and growing construction costs kept delaying the lock's construction, which could be unusable for safety reasons in the very near future.

The Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF) helps pay for major construction of projects like the new Chickamauga Lock by splitting the cost 50-50 with taxpayers.

An Army Corps of Engineers worker confirmed to Channel 3 members of the Inland Waterways Users Board met at the lock Tuesday afternoon. Army Corps spokespeople were off site and out of their Nashville office Wednesday afternoon and not available for comment at the time of this story.

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