Congressional backers of a new lock at the Chickamauga Dam hope they have given the Army Corps of Engineers the keys to unlock the stalled $698 million project.

Led by U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Chattanooga, the entire Tennessee delegation in the U.S. House and two neighboring Republican Congressmen in Alabama sent a letter Wednesday to the Corps of Engineers urging that work resume on the Chickamauga Lock. After rewriting the funding formula for the Corps' most expensive ongoing project, Congressional representatives said money should be available for the first time in years to work on projects like the Chickamauga Lock.

The letter penned by Fleischmann doesn't mention the Chickamauga Lock by name since such earmarks for designated projects in a member's district are no longer allowed. But Fleischmann and 11 other Democrats and Republicans have signed on to a request that the Corps give top priority with newly available funds for "projects where a replacement is needed" for an older, out-of-date lock and to projects that "provide critical support to our national security by transporting classified material."

The new Chickamauga Lock, which would replace the crumbling existing lock built in 1940, is a passageway for barges to access the upper third of the Tennessee River that includes the Department of Energy research and weapons plants in Oak Ridge.

You can read more on this story from our partners at the Chattanooga Times Free Press.