Since taking office in 2011, Chuck Fleischmann’s extreme party loyalty and do-nothing attitude created a ticking time bomb for the Chickamauga Lock closure. Some work has been done—a cofferdam has been created to create a dry construction zone, among other things—but when federal funding ran out during Fleischmann’s first term in 2012, the construction halted. Not one federal penny was allocated to the project for four years.
There have been ongoing promises of completion dating back to 2011. District 3 is sick of empty words and broken promises. The mismanagement and delay has already caused the cost of the project to more than double. This lock is falling apart, and our industries can’t wait.
The Chickamauga Navigation Lock is owned by the Tennessee Valley Authority and operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Upstream of this lock lies almost 350 miles of navigable waterways that are crucial to Tennessee’s (especially District 3) industry and economy. Unfortunately, the lock is old, with blatant structural problems and is simply too small for modern transportation barges. Without aggressive maintenance, the lock will have to be closed—essentially shutting down barge transportation into Chattanooga which would be disastrous for the local economy and our local infrastructure. If the lock closes, the cargo will be re-routed via freight. The additional 150,000 expected trucks will drive through, among other places, the Ridge Cut on I-24. Chattanooga currently ranks as first in the nation for truck traffic think traffic is bad now?
In July of this year—conveniently when Congressman Fleischmann was up for reelection– work resumed on the lock after a four-year hiatus and a $3 million federal grant – a grant that likely had more to do with Senator Lamar Alexander, also on the Appropriations Committee, than did Chuck. It’s a start, sure; but it is estimated that the lock will require almost $600 million in additional funding and eight years to complete. Chuck brought pocket change to a charity auction, but still made sure to get the photo op.
Getting this project on the national budget requires hard work, which is clearly not something our congressman is willing to do. It seems that Chuck would rather the lock close–essentially shutting down an entire local economy–than roll up his sleeves and work with his colleagues to bring this issue to the forefront. Even republican Weston Wamp is disappointed with Chuck’s do-nothing attitude, citing his “hyper partisanship” as the reason for the halt on construction.
That money isn’t just going to fall out of the sky. To complete the project and ensure an economically strong future for District 3 and all of Tennessee, our representative is going to have to cross the aisle and work hard every day, not just when his seat is up for grabs. Based on Chuck Fleischmann’s record, that isn’t something he is capable of doing. So in two short weeks, let’s elect someone who will.