Upcoming TRVA Conference Includes Plans For Kentucky, Chickamauga, Wilson Locks
An update on the progress and funding for the Kentucky Lock Addition Project and Chickamauga Lock Replacement are among the items on the agenda for the annual meeting of the Tennessee River Valley Association and Tennessee-Cumberland Waterways Council October 10–11.
The meeting, which will be held at Embassy Suites Cool Springs in Franklin, Tenn., part of the metropolitan Nashville area, includes speakers both from the public and private sectors.
Lt. Col. Joe M. Sahl, commander of the Nashville district, will give a general overview of construction in the district before project managers at both Kentucky Lock and Chickamauga Lock delve in deeper into their projects, said Cline Jones, TRVA/TCWC executive director.
When the Corps of Engineers Work Plan was announced in late January, utilizing funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), it was believed the $465.49 million received would be enough to fund to completion the addition of a second lock at Kentucky Lock and Dam on the Tennessee River at Gilbertsville, Ky.
However, within weeks, the Corps announced a new cost estimate—based on updated material and labor costs and a delay in the timetable for completion—that projected more funds would be needed. In April, the Inland Waterways Users Board announced that after a thorough review, the increases in cost and timetable mean a need for an additional $235 million to $355 million for the project. The target completion year is now 2028, moved back from a previous target of 2025.
At Chickamauga, the Corps’ fiscal year 2023 budget includes $39 million to carry the project through completion, but a cost re-evaluation is due at the end of September or beginning of October, in conjunction with the end of the current fiscal year and beginning of the new one.
“We’re sort of holding our breath and hoping it doesn’t do what Kentucky did,” Jones said of the costs for completion.
Both projects are worth a close look as they could have major impacts on the availability of funds for other prioritized projects using Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF) dollars, Jones said.
“We’d like to see these projects wrapped up and off the table for us,” he said.
Additionally, Jones said to expect a conference presentation from a Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) representative to include ideas for moving forward with a plan to decrease delays at Wilson Lock and Dam on the Tennessee River following the toppling and sinking of a floating guidewall in August 2021 as Hurricane Ida moved inland.
TVA has contracted with the Corps’ U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) to come up with a plan after preliminary estimates showed replacing the guidewall could cost $79-80 million.
“We could be looking at two or three years from now before we can get it into the budget and then have construction,” Jones said.
Under a Memorandum of Agreement, TVA owns the locks and dams on the Tennessee River, and the Corps of Engineers operates and maintains the locks. TVA has provided a helper boat and restricted some lock transits to daylight hours since the guidewall sank. However, Jones said, a typical double-locking at the dam that once took two hours is now taking about seven hours.
Ideas suggested for further exploration as a temporary fix have ranged from raising the sunken guidewall and reusing parts of it to lashing barges together for an improvised guidewall.
The Corps’ navigation and maintenance team will also present plans for the next year during one conference presentation, Jones said.
“We’re going to give everybody a look over the horizon,” he said.
Other presentations will include those from the U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment from Nashville; Waterways Council Inc.; Tennessee Department of Transportation; and Seamen’s Church Institute.