Alexander: Chickamauga Lock Should Be Funded for 6th Consecutive Year

Posted on April 11, 2019

“Replacing Chickamauga Lock is important to all of Tennessee and if Chickamauga Lock closes, it will throw 150,000 more trucks onto I-75. … the Corps says it could spend $92.3 million next year on Chickamauga Lock and we should do our best to make sure they have those dollars.”

WASHINGTON, April 10, 2019 – United States Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today said, “Funding for construction of the new Chickamauga Lock has been provided for the past five years, so it doesn’t make sense for the administration to not include the project in the budget request.”

“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers maintains our inland waterways, deepens our ports, prevents flooding, and its dams provide emission-free, renewable hydroelectric energy. It’s the federal government’s most popular agency based on the number of appropriations requests we receive each year, and that’s why, last year, Senator Feinstein and I worked together to provide record funding for the Corps – a total of $7 billion. However, this year, the president’s budget request only includes $4.8 billion for the Corps – a dramatic reduction in federal spending. In my opinion, we should spend more, not less, on our nation's water infrastructure,” Alexander said. “I can’t count the number of times that the head of the Corps—including General Semonite—has told me that it makes no sense to start and stop construction. It’s not an efficient way to build projects and it is a waste of taxpayer money. Replacing Chickamauga Lock is important to all of Tennessee and if Chickamauga Lock closes, it will throw 150,000 more trucks onto I-75. Construction of the new Chickamauga Lock has been ongoing for the past five years, so it doesn’t make sense for the administration to not include the project in the budget request.

“Today, because of Office of Management and Budget rules, the Corps has to pretend a project is not already under construction when the Corps decides which projects will receive funding each year. This does not make any sense, and makes it harder to complete projects on time and on budget.  We just heard the Corps say it could spend $92.3 million next year on Chickamauga Lock, and we should do our best to make sure they have those dollars.”

“We should also work to continue to provide funding for dredging at the Port of Memphis.”

Alexander, who serves as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, made his remarks today during a hearing to review the administration’s fiscal year 2020 budget request for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Alexander continued: “Congress has already taken three important steps focusing on properly funding our inland waterways system. First, Congress passed a law that reduced the amount of money that comes from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund to replace Olmsted Lock, a project in Illinois and Kentucky that was soaking up almost all of the money that is available for inland waterway projects.  Second, we worked with the commercial waterways industry to establish a priority list for projects that needed to be funded, on which Chickamauga ranks near the top, in fourth place. And third, we enacted a user fee increase that commercial barge owners asked to pay in order to provide additional funds to replace locks and dams across the country, including Chickamauga Lock.”

Alexander concluded: “As we look to write the Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2020, we should continue to prioritize funding for Chickamauga Lock and other water infrastructure projects.”

During the hearing, Alexander focused on: making our nation's water infrastructure a priority and properly funding our inland waterways system; adequately funding our nation’s ports and harbors; making sure the Corps has the resources it needs to respond to flooding and make repairs so they can continue to manage river levels; and using a more common-sense approach to making decisions about which projects receive funding by looking at the “remaining benefit to cost ratio” of an ongoing project.

Today’s hearing was the third of the subcommittee's four budget hearings this year. At the subcommittee’s first hearing, Alexander discussed the president’s fiscal year 2020 budget request for the U.S. Department of Energy with Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry and emphasized how Congress should continue to increase funding for the department’s research and development programs. The senator referenced his “New Manhattan Project for Clean Energy,” a five year project with Ten Grand Challenges that will use American research and technology to put our country and the world firmly on a path toward cleaner, cheaper energy. The subcommittee reviewed the president’s proposed budget for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) at its second hearing last week.

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