Kentucky Lock and Dam project looks to local leaders to help progress

The Kentucky Lock and Dam project is behind schedule. To ramp up enthusiasm in hopes of speeding things up, the Army Corps of Engineers and other waterway groups invited city and county leaders to the site Thursday.

They hope local advocates will help draw attention to multi-million dollar projects like the lock and dam project. The Army Corps says the Kentucky Lock is currently ranked as the No. 3 priority for inland waterway funding. That’s why those with the lock’s project need local leaders to help.

The Army Corps of Engineers says it is pleased with progress but knows it could be better. The corps says it completed a major milestone in the current phase Wednesday. But, the corps says it needs to start a critical project downstream. It says the downstream project would mean huge progress overall and translate to revenue for the area.

But they can’t do it alone.

Kentucky and the lock and dam are essential to river commerce. Craig Stepan with the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Development Authority says the key to developing the area and the lock and dam lies in local leaders. "They’re decision makers," he says. "They’re people I think can help shape public policy."

Don Getty, the Army Corps of Engineers project manager, says the site’s progressing but behind schedule. Getty says they still don’t have the money they need. In the most recent phase, Getty says they’ve complete construction on nine of the monoliths, or concrete blocks, but they have 61 total to build.

Getty says the money issue keeps water transportation from being as efficient as highways. "We could have started the downstream coffer dam soon after we finished that, but we didn’t have money," he says.

Both Getty and Stepan hope local leaders like Paducah City Commissioner Carol Gault can help influence at home. "It (the lock and dam project) does extend beyond just here," Gault says. "And its important to Paducah."

And impress Carlisle County Judge Executive Greg Terry. The project carries opportunities counties away. "You didn’t think a lot about for job creation in our community," he says.

The Kentucky Lock and Dam project is completely funded by federal money to the tune of almost of $408 million spent to date. As for how far in the future it will be completed, the Army Corps of Engineers estimates completing the project in 2023.

Getty says the project is such a lengthy one partly because of that critical downstream project. Every day that project is delayed, it delays the completion date by a day, and they haven’t started downstream.

The Kentucky Lock and Dam project is also funded through the marine diesel fuel tax.

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