NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Nov. 14, 2019) – The assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works visited the Chickamauga Lock Replacement Project today in Chattanooga, Tenn., then jetted to Music City for a town hall meeting to engage with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District workforce.
Honorable R.D. James, who establishes policy and direction and provides supervision of all aspects of the Corps of Engineers’ Civil Works Program, stopped over at Chickamauga Lock for an opportunity to gauge the progress of the project and meet Nashville District leadership, project personnel, Tennessee Valley Authority partners, and stakeholders.
Project Manager Adam Walker updated James on the overall history of the project, and addressed how the current $240 million multi-option lock chamber contract is underway in the coffer dam on the downstream side of Chickamauga Dam, a TVA project.
“Assuming that we get all the money required to exercise remaining contract options, we expect to be done with the new lock chamber in the June 2023 timeframe,” Walker said. “The following contracts will be the installation of the approach walls and work to decommission the existing lock.”
During the briefing, James thanked everyone for their hard work on keeping the project moving forward. He also asked Daniel Moore, civil engineer with TVA Dam Safety, to pass along his appreciation to TVA for being great partners with the Corps of Engineers, especially when it comes to working together to benefit inland navigation, hydropower and flood risk reduction.
James took a walking tour and received an overview of ongoing construction from Resident Engineer Tommy Long as they overlooked the lock chamber in the coffer dam where the contractor AECOM is using an overland 1,300-foot belt system with a 24-inch belt to transport concrete more than 900 feet in about two-and a-half minutes from the batch plant to the construction site.
Long explained how the towerbelt placing system incorporates two Terex tower cranes capable of lifting 16,400 pounds a distance of 229 feet to place concrete in the lock area. It will take 7,000 tons of reinforcing steel and 285,000 cubic yards of concrete to construct the new 110-foot by 600-foot lock chamber, which is enough concrete to pave a two-lane highway from Chattanooga to Nashville.
“Everything I see is being done exactly right,” James said after putting eyes on the project and interacting with the Corps of Engineers’ technical experts and contractors on site.
At the existing 60-foot by 360-foot lock, built in 1940, Lockmaster Cory Richardson explained to James that structural problems resulted from alkali aggregate reaction, which causes a physical expansion of concrete structures.
“The lock has actually grown 12 inches longer and four inches taller in places because of this concrete growth,” Richardson said.
Chickamauga Lock remains one of the most important current construction projects in the Corps because it is so critical to the economy, commerce, and recreation in East Tennessee. If the current lock were to close prior to completion of the replacement lock, the direct impact would be closure of 318 miles of river and associated movement of commercial and recreational traffic upstream of Chattanooga.
The current lock chamber is also incompatible with today’s towing equipment resulting in longer than normal tow-processing times. When completed, the new larger lock is expected to speed up the process of locking through, and would process up to nine jumbo barges in one lockage.
“It will increase the benefit to this nation greatly when this lock and dam is finished,” James said.
At the Nashville District Headquarters at the Estes Kefauver Federal Building in Nashville, Tenn., James addressed the district’s workforce about his intention to eliminate corporate stovepipes and put more decision-making authority at the district level.
James, who has a civil engineering degree from the University of Kentucky, served on the Mississippi River Commission for 37 years. He said he learned a lot about the Corps of Engineers on the presidential-appointed commission, especially the capabilities and qualifications of the Corps of Engineers’ people on the ground who are familiar with the work and closely support the projects.
“You come to work every day and do a good job. You care and you are quite capable of the engineering and everything else that happens in this building,” James stressed.
James also touched on the importance of being great partners with communities, businesses and citizens that buy land, provide easements, and furnish rights of way or even cost share Corps of Engineers projects.
“Well if you were out in private business and a man or lady had to do that with you, yawl would shake hands and be partners,” James said. “And that’s exactly what the people we deal with are. They are partners, whether it be navigation, flood control, eco-system restoration, and then there’s about 40 other things they’ve tacked onto us. I know that.”
James said his team is working with the Corps of Engineers to rewrite the Levee Safety Program manual to make it more concise and easier to understand. He wants the volume to delineate the responsibilities and the rights of FEMA and the Corps of Engineers.
“Our number one charge is to make sure the levees are safe to begin with, and if they’re not, to address it,” James said.
He added that he is also looking at the cost and benefit ratio process used to approve projects, focusing on the benefit part of it, especially in rural areas, and to work with Congress on the water supply rule.
In closing, James thanked the district’s workforce for their service, and as an example he related how the nation and so many people will be positively impacted when the new Chickamauga Lock is completed.
“It’s all due to your dedication, your expertise, and what you do when you do fight that traffic every day you come to work,” James said. “I applaud you for that.”
James also recognized Tim Dunn, deputy chief of Operations Division; Eric Pagoria, Construction Branch chief; and Kirsten Ronholt, Office of Counsel, for excellence during the town meeting.
(For more news, updates and information please follow the Nashville District on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps and Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps. The public can also follow Chickamauga Lock on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/chickamaugalock.)