Grand Rivers, KY – Kentucky Lock Project Manager Don Getty looks forward to 2016 when the renovations on the Kentucky Lock and Dam conclude. Getty has been an employee at the Nashville Army Corps of Engineers for 27 years. His extensive work with this project started in 1998. He says the new additions will improve the ease in water transportation.
"The main focus of the project is a new navigation lock that's going to be twice as long as the existing lock. We're building the new lock right next to the existing lock, it will be 1200 foot long, and what it will let us do is to make the lock much more efficient."
The project continues thanks to federal support. Senator Mitch McConnell worked to recently get $945,000 in federal funding for the project.
"Having toured the site first hand earlier this year, I know how important this project is to the free flow of our nation's commerce. It's in everybody's best interest to get this project finished as quickly as possible."
However, Getty says the current funding set up might not correspond with McConnell's speedy expectations.
"The project is funded on an annual basis and that's created some challenges sometimes, not knowing how much money the project is going to receive in the following year."
One of the biggest problems the lock has now is slow transfer rate once a boat enters the lock. The whole process on average takes 9 hours.
"That's a tremendous cost to industry. Those costs get passed along to us the consumers."
Getty says the new transfer times will hopefully be less than an hour total. Though these monstrous structures seem miles away to some, the recent rains prove what an asset they are to basic needs.
"It provides flood control, and we've seen that just in the last few days. The corps and TVA have held back water at Kentucky and Barkley dams to prevent flooding of agricultural fields downstream - fields that people still know, have crops in them that need to be harvested."
Getty says not only local farmers benefit, but with products and goods from 20 states passing through the lock, the benefits span across the U.S.
The 734 million dollar project won't wrap up any time soon. Although the original end date was supposed to be two years ago, delays now put its completion date sometime in 2016. Right now, Getty says they are approximately one third to the finish line.
Though there is much more money needed to continue with the project, Getty says the continual revenue through Kentucky bought materials and Kentucky sales tax revenue will give back to the state throughout the building process.