CHICKAMAUGA DAM (WDEF) --- If things go as Senator Lamar Alexander wants, there may be good news ahead for the aging Chickamauga Locks.
The Tennessee senator was in Chattanooga today to discuss the Water Resources Act he introduced last October.
It may be a last ditch effort to avoid a major shut-down of the locks.
The Chickamauga lock was built in 1940---if it fails, it would change the economic life of the Tennessee Valley.
Until now, it's future looked bleak.
SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER, (R) TENNESSEE "Everybody thinks this is a Chattanooga issue and it isn't a Chattanooga issue.
If Chick-Lock fails it'll flood downtown Chattanooga. But Chickamauga lock is important to the economic growth of all of east Tennessee.".
Funding for a new lock has been piece-meal for years. An ambitious plan to build a new and larger facility has been stalled under the Obama administration, and this year, even the standard 3-million dollars alloted for upkeep was not in the final budget.
Overall funding for dams and locks is normally provided by the Inland Waterways Trust Fund, but 90% of its funding has been directed toward a huge re-vamp of the Olmsted Lock in Ohio.
SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER "It adopts a new plan that has priorities for the most important lock construction work in the country...and Chickamauga Lock is high on that list."
The bill would move up the time-table for the work.
SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER "..if the full congress approves it." " Chick-lock should begin to be under new construction within 2 to 4 years, it'll take about 5 years to build it, costing about 600-million dollars."
The senator was also anxious to comment on another facet of his legislation, a ban on fishing below the dams imposed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER "Today the Tennessee Wildlife resources Agency said they would not enforce the Corps' new rule because its unreasonable. I think the corps is being bull-headed."
The senate vote on the Water Resouces Development act will come on May 6th.