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Cranes to Increase Concrete Capacity at TN Dam

Thursday, June 27, 2019

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This summer, AECOM Construction Services (Los Angeles) will be installing three tower cranes for the Chickamauga Navigation Lock project taking place at the Chickamauga Dam in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Two of the cranes will be placed in or near the new lock.

About the Lock

Having been in operation since 1940, the Chickamauga Lock is 60 feet by 360 feet and suffers from concrete growth—a reaction between the alkali in the cement and aggregate mixing with river water. The infrastructure is owned by the Tennessee Valley Authority and has been continuously operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

George Green, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons

This summer, AECOM Construction Services (Los Angeles) will be installing three tower cranes for the Chickamauga Navigation Lock project taking place at the Chickamauga Dam in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Currently, the lock is used to transport materials for various industries, as well as TVA facilities and the Department of Energy facilities, where ships can navigate upstream 318 miles. The Tennessee River Valley Association estimates that the lock sees some 1.3 million tons of traffic pass through each year.

However, because of the growing concrete, the possibility of structural problems threatens to close the lock all together. Additionally, the existing size is also a problem, since it is no longer a standard size and unable to accommodate modern barges.

In February 1999, TVA provided $1.5 million in funds to conduct a feasibility study for the replacement of the lock. By May 2002, a Chief’s Report was signed, recommending an official replacement that would be constructed adjacent to the existing lock.

About the Project

According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, plans for the replacement lock’s construction began in 2004 with construction being initiated in 2007, in addition to the completion of a $16 million Road and Bridge Relocation contract the same year.

By 2009, the lock’s design had been completed with Cofferdam’s construction and fabrication of the miter gates, culvert valves and bulkheads following completion in 2012. These items have been stored in an offsite TVA facility in Shoals, Alabama.

Approach wall beams were also completed in 2012, but are being stored at another TVA facility near the Watts Bar Dam.

After a three-year temporary suspension of construction activities for the lock due to funding constraints, grouting applied to the existing cofferdam reached completion in July 2016. The same year, a $35 million lock excavation contract was awarded in September and was substantially completed in January of this year.

The Army Corps of Engineers reported that a $240 million lock chamber construction contract was also awarded in September 2017 to AECOM and would last between five and seven years, depending on annual funding.

The contract includes construction of a functioning lock chamber within the cofferdam; however, the lock will be unable to launch operations until the dam and cofferdam are breached—plans that will be carried out during the project’s next construction contract for the construction of approach walls and decommission of the current Chickamauga Lock.

To date, the chamber lock project includes 13 budget options.

What’s Happening Now

Three tower cranes are to be installed by AECOM in order to build a 600-foot-by-110-foot lock chamber, the biggest construction phase yet in the estimated $757.7 million project.

According to project manager Adam Walker, a 1,100-foot-long conveyor system is also slated to be installed to bring concrete made in the batch plant on the north side of the river over to the lock chamber in the river. The cement will be used to construct 50-foot-wide walls at the base of the new lock.

The new lock is estimated to require 285,000 cubic yards of concrete (pre-tested to avoid future concrete growth), or the equivalent of 35,600 standard cement truck hauls. The lock will also be able to handle nine standard-size barges at one time.

"We hope to have some of the concrete placements for the new lock by July or August," Walker said.

"The options we have in place now with our available funding will take us to December of 2020. All total, we hope to have all of the concrete work and walls in place by May 2023, if we get the available funding to exercise all of our options."

Within this fiscal year, the Army Corps have allocated $89.7 million for the Chickamauga project, the biggest allowance of funding over the project’s history thus far.

However, President Donald J. Trump’s budget proposal for the 2020 fiscal year does not include sufficient funding in the Corps of Engineers' civil works budget needed to continue construction. Yet, Time Free Press reports that Congress has traditionally restored federal funding for the Inland Waterways Trust Fund, which is known to pay for replacement locks.

If able to pull off the proper funding, completion of the Chickamauga Lock could be as early as December 2024.


Tagged categories: concrete; Cranes; Government contracts; Infrastructure; Infrastructure; Locks and dams; NA; North America; Ongoing projects; Program/Project Management; Project Management; U.S. Army; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

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