NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Aug. 8, 2016) – The congressman serving Tennessee District 3 who serves on the House Committee on Appropriations and the Energy and Water Subcommittee donned a pair of rubber boots Aug. 3 to get a close look at the dewatered Chickamauga Lock on the Tennessee River in Chattanooga, Tenn.
U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann trekked through the grit, grime and shallow pools of water in the 60-foot by 360-foot lock to interact with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District team that has been inspecting and making repairs around the clock since July 11.
“It’s critically important as a member of Congress I get to come and actually see the work first hand that you all are doing, and I commend the Army Corps for the work that it is doing now and that it has done on this existing lock,” Fleischmann said.
The Nashville District drained more than 11 million gallons of water from the lock to inspect all the components and valves that are normally underwater. The huge steel gates that allow boats to enter and leave the lock are also being worked on to repair deteriorated areas due to the constant exposure to water.
The ongoing repairs make it possible to prolong the life of the lock that has been suffering from concrete expansion, which threatens its structural integrity and limits the lifespan of the lock. The maintenance helps to keep the lock active while the Nashville District constructs a replacement lock.
Greg Cox, chief of maintenance for the Corps of Engineers maintenance team at the lock who led the tour, said he informed Fleischmann about general repairs, condition of the lock and its deteriorating state.
“I explained to him about the aggregate in the concrete and how it’s growing and literally pushing the lock apart, and he understood that” Cox said. “I showed him some examples of where this is taking place, which is basically all over the lock, but showing up more in certain spots.”
Cox said he also explained how the concrete growth causes the gates to move over time, forcing things to fit tighter, and wears down the seals. Every two to three years the maintenance team has to sandblast the gate and build new seals, he added.
The congressman said it’s a legislative priority to make sure the lock gets the funding it needs for maintenance and repair and required monitoring devices, and to keep the new lock construction a high priority for funding.
“Based on the formula that we have locked in, excuse the pun, legislatively, Chickamauga is in line to receive increased funding over time so we can hit that critical completion date of 2022 or 2023,” Fleischman said.
Work restarted on the Chickamauga Lock Replacement Project in April 2016 with a $3.1 million cofferdam stabilization project. The Nashville District expects to award a two-year-long excavation contract in September 2016 for the removal of 98,000 cubic yards of rock to prepare for future lock construction.
The new lock is vital to the region because it will keep 318 miles of river open to commerce and recreational traffic upstream of the Tennessee Valley Authority dam.
Lt. Col. Stephen Murphy, Nashville District commander, said the congressman observed, listened, and asked some really good questions because he is concerned with future funding requirements to keep the current lock open while at the same time keeping the new lock project on track for completion.
“It’s good for the congressman to personally see the ‘nuts and bolts’ and all the work that it takes to keep the current lock open. That’s our main concern – keeping the current lock maintained and operational until we can get the new one completed.” Murphy said.
The commander said he likes using the analogy of the current lock being like a sick patient.
“Over time it’s getting older and its condition is worsening. It is costly in both time and money to keep this patient alive, so we’re pushing hard to get the new lock operational. This is why we appreciate Congressman Fleischmann’s significant interest and support for the project,” Murphy said.
Murphy said the Corps of Engineers’ work at Chickamauga Lock has regional and national benefits and that the district’s employees are proud to serve and make a difference on such a significant project.
Fleischmann said he appreciates the Corps for the work it’s doing to keep the old lock open while at the same time working through difficult circumstances to construct a new lock. He also pledged his support to see the project through to completion.
“My commitment is steadfast,” Fleischmann said. “I wanted to actually be here again to see what we are doing… we can never lose sight of the fact that this structure is antiquated and ultimately needs full replacement.”
Repairs to the dewatered Chickamauga Lock are expected to be completed and the lock reopened to traffic by Aug. 11, 2016.
(The public can obtain news, updates and information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District on the district’s website at www.lrn.usace.army.mil, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/nashvillecorpsand on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps.)