$45.4 million to go to Kentucky Lock expansion project
GRAND RIVERS, KY —
More than $45 million are going toward the Kentucky Lock Addition Project, making it’s completion more of a reality. Congress set aside $30 million more for fiscal year 2016 than it put toward the project last year.
A boat owned by Tennessee Valley Towing moves barges through Kentucky Lock every day. At times, it can take 10 to 12 hours before a boat can begin to go through the lock.
"Then, you’re another four and a half hours on top of that, so you waste pretty much most of a good day to get through Kentucky Lock," said TVT General Manager Gordon Southern.
Southern says that’s time and money. He says it coasts at least $13,000 a day in fuel alone.
"The more time I’m sitting there, I’m paying customers and burning fuel," Southern said.
Southern welcomed news that Congress was setting aside millions of dollars for a project to build an additional 1,200 foot lock.
Right now, a tow boat and six barges or nine barges without a tow boat can go through the lock. With the new lock, a tow boat could take 15 barges through, more than doubling what the boats can take now.
"That’s a tremendous cost to the towing companies to ship goods and products through Kentucky Lock and we all pay those cost," U.S. Army Corps of Engineer Project Manager Don Getty said.
He says Congress cleared up some issues with funding last year, partly by increasing a special tax that towing companies pay on their marine diesel fuel to go toward projects like this.
"It appears in the immediate future that we’re going to have steady and healthy funding stream that will allow us to have an efficient construction schedule at the Kentucky Lock.
Getty says the project, which started in 1998, could be completed by 2023 if it stays on track. "We’re sailing down the river making miles," he says.
Those are miles companies like TVT agreed are worth the extra fuel tax.
The Corps used last year’s funding to work on the up stream section of the new lock. That’s the phase of the project they’re working on now.
This year’s funding will be used to contract the next phase of the project to start construction on the lower stream section of the lock.
The president’s budget proposal didn’t earmark money for this project for fiscal year 2017. Getty says the project hasn’t been included in the budget since 2011. He says the project gets funded through a separate appropriation process.
The entire project is estimated to cost about $870 million. So far, about $410 million have been spent on it.