Congress Completes Passage Of Bill That Alexander Says Could Lead To Completing Chickamauga Lock 6 Years Earlier Than Projected

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Congress on Thursday approved final passage of legislation that would authorize more funding for the nation’s inland waterways, and Senator Lamar Alexander said "could lead to replacement of Chickamauga Lock by as much as six years earlier than the previously projected completion of 2026."

The Senate passed the legislation today as part of the Water Resources Development Act by a vote of 91 to 7. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Water Resources Development Act by a vote of 412 to 4 on Tuesday, and the legislation now heads to the president’s desk for signature.

 “Congress has done the right thing by finally agreeing to put Chickamauga Lock fourth in the line of essential American waterways to be rebuilt, and authorizing new funding to do it,” Senator Alexander said. “But the work will not be done fast enough to keep jobs flowing into East Tennessee until Congress accepts the offer of barge owners to pay more to accelerate the work. Their offer is in everyone’s interest, including recreational boaters who would not have to pay more but would see their waiting time to go through the lock reduced.

“Failure of the existing lock – a real possibility if the delay in funding takes too long – would threaten jobs in Chattanooga and throughout East Tennessee, including at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, nuclear weapons facilities, nuclear power plants and manufacturing facilities. If the Lock is closed it will put at least 150,000 trucks back on I-75, and if the new expanded Lock is built it will take 100,000 trucks off I-75, according to the Tennessee River Valley Association.”

Both the House and Senate previously passed their own versions of the Water Resources Development Act, and the legislation passed today was the result of conference negotiations between the two chambers. The legislation, which will become law following a signature by the president, would prioritize funding for Chickamauga Lock in two ways:

  • First, it would decrease the amount of money the Inland Waterways Trust Fund pays each year to construct Olmsted Lock, an Ohio River project that Alexander said has “soaked up almost all of the available money for lock replacement anywhere in the country.” Olmsted Lock would go from receiving half of its funding from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund to receiving 15 percent of its funding from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund. This change makes more money available to fund inland navigation projects like Chickamauga Lock.
  • Second, it would restate the capital development plan that prioritizes construction projects, ensuring that Chickamauga Lock will be No. 4 on the priority list as funding becomes available for projects.

 These two provisions mean work on Chickamauga Lock could begin sooner than otherwise possible, leading to an earlier completion by as much as six years, Senator Alexander said. Based on the current backlog, Chickamauga Lock is not scheduled for completion until 2026. Currently, Chickamauga Lock is composed of aging and severely deteriorating concrete. 

Infrastructure projects like rebuilding Chickamauga Lock are funded by the Inland Waterways Trust Fund, which draws on fees that commercial users report and pay themselves. In addition to the two provisions contained in the Water Resources Development Act, Alexander said the $600 million project to replace the lock over five years would still require a fee increase that commercial users already support. 

Senator Alexander previously called for all three changes – the removal of Olmsted Lock from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund, the restatement of the capital plan, and the user-supported fee increase – as part of the American Waterworks Act. He announced May 1 that portions of that legislation would advance as part of the Water Resources Development Act.



Copies Of Remaining Chattanooga Photo Books Available At Zarzour's Restaurant; By Mail

Remaining copies of the Chattanooga Photo books are available at Zarzours Restaurant on Rossville Avenue off Main Street. It is near Fire Hall #1. They include the Remarkable Stokes Collection, Railroads In and Around Chattanooga, and Paul Hiener's Historic Chattanooga.  All were published by Chattanoogan.com.  and printed by College Press at Collegedale. The ... (click for more)

Police Blotter: Man Digs Up Old Gun In His Yard On Wheeler Avenue

A Wheeler Avenue resident told police that he was doing yard work and discovered a handgun buried in his yard. He said the firearm did not belong to him. Police could determine that the firearm was a firestorm 1911 government 45 AUTO but were unable to read the serial number do to the rusty condition of the gun. Police submitted it to the Chattanooga Property Division for safe keeping. ... (click for more)

All I Want For Christmas Are Digitized Newspapers For 2018 - And Response

With recent news of the Public Library investing in their own StoryCorps-ish effort with the Chattanooga Memory Project, it got me thinking about digitizing local newspapers again.   It's been two and a half years since the Chattanooga Public Library committed to sending out a request for proposals to digitize the local newspapers they have on microfilm. Back in ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Top Of My Desk

I am always pleasantly amused when people ask me how I can come up with something different to write about each day. The truth is that it is a rare day indeed when there isn’t something I want to share. As I sat down at my desk yesterday and looked about, I laughed at myself because there were several stacks each worthy of a story so please allow me to present “the best of” the ... (click for more)

Vols' Pruitt Is A "Ball Coach" Who Won't Forget HIs Roots

KNOXVILLE -- He is still the guy that taught them how to play kickball and officiated their dodgeball games. He's still the guy that wore a Fort Payne Wildcats football T-shirt to class every day and carried them over his shoulder across the playground if they got hurt. Before he rose to prominence as a college football coach, Jeremy Pruitt was a PE teacher at Wills Valley ... (click for more)

UTC Women Fall To Virginia Tech 64-44

The Chattanooga Lady Mocs started off the current basketball season with three straight losses, including a 60-30 whipping at Green Bay on November 11. Things had gotten better since that time as the Lady Mocs came into Sunday afternoon’s home game with Virginia Tech on a six-game winning streak, but the train jumped off the track, the local girls had one of their poorest performances ... (click for more)