Alexander Presses Army Corps of Engineers on Chickamauga Lock Maintenance; Urges Administration to Make Proposal for Increasing Revenues to Waterways Fund a Priority

Posted on April 14, 2011

WASHINGTON – At a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Energy and Water Subcommittee, U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) on Wednesday urged the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to move quickly on a proposal for increasing revenue to a fund that maintains inland waterways like Chickamauga Lock, saying, “I’d like to urge you to make it a priority and let us see it as soon as possible.”

The administration rejected an earlier proposal from the commercial users of the Inland Waterways Trust Fund, and is currently working on its own proposal, according to the testimony of Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the U.S. Army for civil works, who oversees the Army Corps of Engineers. Darcy said she didn’t know when the proposal would be completed, other than in “less than a few years and more than a few months.”

Alexander said: “There’s a certain urgency to this, when you have the users of the waterways who are agreeable to contributing extra dollars to create projects that all of us believe are important for new jobs—I think, the sooner the better. So I’d like to urge you to make it a priority and let us see it as soon as possible.”

Alexander also asked about the Army Corps of Engineers’ projections for how long Chickamauga Lock can reliably be maintained.

Lt. General Robert L. Van Antwerp, commanding general of the Army Corps of Engineers, said that according to the Army Corps’ projections, “there’s a low probability of failure right now, but we have [the lock] wired. We have gauges and everything, so we’re watching that to give pre-notion if there’s going to be a failure of it. But there’s no question, we’re watching the maintenance curve on this and it grows and grows every year and at some point it goes to the point where you’ve got to make this change and you’ve got to fix it.”

Alexander asked: “Well, isn’t it true that it’s in danger of a catastrophic failure?”

“We feel the probability right now is low to moderate,” Antwerp said.

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