Chattanooga Times Free Press: Lamar Alexander blasts Corps for not funding new Chickamauga Lock in budget

Posted on February 11, 2015

The new chairman of the U.S. Senate panel that oversees the America's waterways today chided the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for not allocating any money in its proposed budget next year for the stalled Chickamauga Lock in Chattanooga.

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, the Tennessee Republican who took over last month as chairman of the Senate's Energy and Water Development Subcommittee, said the fuel tax increase imposed on barge operators and the change in the Inland Waterways Trust Funding formula should provide enough money to restart work on the new lock at the Chickamauga Dam.

"Congress has done its jobs and it's disappointing that the adminstration has failed to do its job," Alexander told officials of the Corps of Engineers. "We're almost out of time for a solution."

Alexander said the replacement lock is needed at the Chickamauaga Dam to replace the aging, 75-year-old lock that suffers from "concrete growth" and may have to be permanently shut down within the next five to 10 years.

Such a closure could add another 175,000 cars on to Interstate 75 and boost the shipping costs for manufacturers and other businesses and government facilities in East Tennessee.

The White House budget for fiscal 2016 for the Corps of Engineers released earlier this month is 13.4 percent less than what Congress allocated for the Corps in 2015.

The criticism of the Corps' budget today came from both sides of the partisan aisle.

"It's not acceptable when we consider all of the water resource needs of our country," said U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, R-Calif., the ranking member of the subcommittee.