Senator Lamar Alexander, in a press conference Wednesday morning held just below Chickamauga Dam, said a bill may see Senate action next week that could provide a permanent funding solution for the Chickamauga Lock.
Senator Alexander said the prospects are good that the American Waterworks Act will pass the Senate. It would then need to get through the House before reaching the President's desk.
He said the bill would replace the current funding formula under the U.S. Corps of Engineers.
He said the huge Olmsted Lock being built on the Ohio River has gobbled up some 90 percent of available lock funds, leaving Chickamauga Lock at a standstill after some work was started earlier.
Senator Alexander said the bill includes additional charges to lock users. He said barge owners want the lock fixed and have agreed to pay more.
He said the current lock only allows one barge at a time and takes up to six hours. He said the new lock will be able to handle several barges at a time in 1-2 hours.
Senator Alexander said if the bill gets through Congress, then work should resume on Chickamauga Lock in 2-4 years. He said it will then take five years of construction to build it.
The cost was put at $600 million.
He said if the lock fails, "Downtown Chattanooga would flood." He spoke as water was streaming from the dam due to recent downpours.