News: Heavy cargo shipment demonstrates value of nation’s waterway delivery system
Story by Leon Roberts
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – The Tennessee Valley Authority is in the process of shipping a 750,000-pound generator and 500,000-pound turbine through the Tennessee River Navigation System bound for the John Sevier Combined Cycle Plant in Hawkins County, and it passed through the Chickamauga Lock here, Sept. 29.
“The shipment of heavy cargo for TVA that cannot be delivered by road or railway is a prime example of the importance of maintaining the nation’s waterway delivery system – including this lock,” said Wayne Huddleston, Chickamauga Lock project manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District.
Huddleston said the Nashville District is in the process of building a new lock at Chickamauga and a coffer dam is 98 percent complete in preparation for construction. However, because of funding shortages for navigation projects nationwide, the new lock is on hold pending revision to the Inland Waterway Trust Fund revenue equation, he said.
“The Chickamauga Lock Project will also require reauthorization for construction,” Huddleston explained. “But until we have a funding source to award the lock contract we’ll wait.”
Bill Debruyn, resident engineer for the Corps at Chickamauga, praised his staff for their effort in getting the coffer dam constructed, which began in October 2006. He said the contractor, C.J. Mahan, a contractor out of Ohio, also should be commended for doing a great job.
Debruyn said there were challenges with constructing the coffer dam, such as the flowing water, high water, geology, and concrete structures that weighed 280 tons each, but overall the contractor overcame them.
“They are now pumping out the interior of the coffer dam,” Debruyn said. “After that there will be a three-month inspection period of the inside of the coffer dam. Our folks here and an architectural-engineer firm will map the geology so we have an accurate idea of what we have inside the coffer dam and that it dove-tails with our design.
“If there is no promising outlook on near-term funding, we’ll just pull all the pumps and let it slowly fill itself back up,” Debruyn said about what will happen to the coffer dam if construction does not begin right away on the new lock. “We’ll just let water seep into it and mothball on-site construction until the funding issue is eventually resolved.”
The current lock, 360-feet long by 60-feet wide, was built from 1936-1940 and the concrete used at the lock has been expanding and causing issues with dam operations. The new lock, 600-feet wide by 110-feet wide, is expected to extend its operability supporting the nation’s waterway system for many years to come.
Huddleston said it’s important to get the new lock construction reauthorized and underway because if the current lock were to further deteriorate it would eventually not allow for deliveries like the TVA shipment.
“I think there is significance to industry, commerce, and jobs in the region if you don’t have an operable lock here,” Huddleston noted.
Larry Small, general manager for TVA New Construction Group, watched the barge go through the Chickamauga Lock and said it would have been difficult to move the equipment if it were not for the waterways and locks like at Chickamauga.
“We couldn’t have gotten it to the John Sevier location if it were not for moving it on the water,” Small stressed. “It would have been a nightmare if we couldn’t have moved it up the Tennessee River. This is saving us a lot of time, effort, money and even feasibility.”
Chickamauga Lock, located just upstream of downtown Chattanooga, serves as a major transportation artery for the shipment of various bulk products coming into and leaving East Tennessee. During the past decade, commercial tonnage at Chickamauga Lock averaged 2 million tons.
Users of the locks on the Tennessee River system include commercial vessels, private recreational craft, and local, state and federal vessels of all sizes.
The locks handled more than 13,800 recreational vessels and the passage of 49.6 million tons of cargo in 2007, the most recent year of confirmed commodity data.
Examples of large shipments include the steam generators installed at Watts Bar and Sequoyah Nuclear Plants and the electromagnets required for the Spallation Neutron Source Project at Oak Ridge.
Major commodities include ores and minerals, petroleum and chemicals. The lock is also used to transport maintenance equipment for use at the dams, and fossil and nuclear plants.
Shipments into and out of the upper Tennessee River are linked to 14 rivers of the inland waterway and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. These shipments either originate or terminate in 42 congressional districts in 17 states.