Alexander: Barges and Boats Should Be Able to Use the New Chickamauga Lock as Early as 2023

Posted on March 11, 2020

WASHINGTON, March 11, 2020 – At a hearing to review the president’s fiscal year 2021 budget request for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today said Congress has now appropriated money to award the remaining contract to complete Chickamauga Lock, but it’s important to provide the Corps with adequate funding to “finish the job.”

“With the money now appropriated by Congress and signed by the president, we have the necessary funding to complete the new Chickamauga chamber lock contract. This is a project that was authorized in 2003, and because of steady funding for six consecutive years, barges and small boats should be able to use the new lock as early as 2023,” Alexander said. “But to finish the job, work remains to be done, which means constructing the approach walls and tearing down the old lock, and we need to make sure we have adequate funding for that. I will be working with Ranking Member Feinstein to continuing to give the Corps the resources they need.”

Alexander continued, “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers touches the lives of almost every American. The Corps 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 $7.65 billion. However, this year, the president’s budget request only includes $6 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. 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 six years, so it doesn’t make sense for the administration to not include the project in the budget request.”

Alexander concluded: “Congress took steps to make sure our nation’s ports and harbors could compete with other harbors around the world. Congress realized that the government was spending only a fraction of the taxes each year that were collected and deposited in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund for our ports and harbors, which meant billions of dollars collected to maintain our nation’s harbors was sitting in a bank account that got bigger and bigger each year. … To provide more funding for our ports and harbors, Congress enacted spending targets for the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 which increased how much Congress could spend each year on harbor maintenance projects. Our appropriations subcommittee has met these targets for the last six years in the Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill.”

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 2021 budget request for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. During the hearing, Alexander focused on: making our nation's water infrastructure a priority and properly funding our inland waterways system and adequately funding our nation’s ports and harbors. 

Today’s hearing was the second of the subcommittee's four budget hearings this year. At the subcommittee’s first hearing, Alexander discussed the president’s fiscal year 2021 budget request for the U.S. Department of Energy with Department of Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette 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’s next budget hearing will be on April 1st to review the National Nuclear Security Administration’s year 2021 budget request.