U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, at a hearing of the Environment and Public Works Committee, today told Army Assistant Secretary John Paul Woodley, who oversees the Army Corps of Engineers, that “the Corps of Engineers should cover more of the cost to fix safety concerns at the dams at Wolf Creek and Center Hill.”
The two dams were built above caves and on an eroding limestone base, called karst, a geology that allows seepage over time. Such seepage endangers the structural integrity of the dams. In response, the Corps has already lowered the water level at the two dams, reducing their power output and raising water temperatures, in order to carry out extensive repairs over an estimated five years.
“The Corps needs to acknowledge that these repairs are necessary because of safety concerns for those living near the dams and cover appropriate costs,” Alexander said. Under current law, the Corps must cover a greater percentage of costs for safety related repairs. To date, the Corps has not acknowledged that the repairs at Wolf Creek and Center Hill are safety related.
“The cost of these repairs to Tennesseans is already high,” said Alexander. “Rate payers can expect to pay an extra $100 million per year to cover the cost of the lost power. And, because the lower water levels result in higher water temperatures, fishermen can expect different conditions, homeowners can expect a changed shoreline, and downstream coal power plants will need more water to cool their facilities.”
Alexander also complimented the Corps for its work at the new Northwest Tennessee Port and the Chickamauga lock in Chattanooga.
“I am pleased that you have worked to keep the Northwest Tennessee Port on schedule for completion in September of 2008. Your efforts to complete this project on time, given the difficult federal funding situation the Corps is in this fiscal year, and the fact that you were able to direct $3.2 million for this valuable project is noteworthy,” said Alexander. “This port could bring hundreds of millions of dollars of new investments to Lake County and the surrounding area, and that means thousands of new jobs.”
“And I’m glad to see the work at Chickamauga Lock is set to proceed on schedule,” said Alexander. “Without this upgrade, the current lock could fail and one of America’s great waterways, the Tennessee River, could no longer be used for shipping. If we don’t keep this project moving forward, thousands of Tennessee jobs could be lost.”
Alexander is a member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.