Waterway is Public Works Landmark

by Kneeland A. Godfrey, Jr., Sr. Ed.; Civil Engineering Magazine, ASCE World Headquarters, 345 East 47th Street, New York City, NY.,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1986, Vol. 56, Issue 7, Pg. 42-45

Document Type: Feature article


The $2 billion, 234 mile Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway connects the Tennessee River and the Gulf of Mexico at Mobile. The biggest Corps of Engineers civil-works project ever, it was created by excavating 300 million cu yd of earth, more than the Panama Canal. Innovative approaches are described. It also has 20 locks and dams, accommodating water-surface elevation changes of 341 ft. One technique widely used for lock/dam site dewatering was the slurry-trench method, which in some cases cut costs. More attention was paid to ameliorating environmental impact than on almost any other project. Special attention to the 14,000 acres of spoil-disposal area is described. The project was very widely criticized as unjustified economically; the political and economic history and future of the project are summarized.

Subject Headings: Infrastructure | Economic factors | Waterways | Rivers and streams | Gulfs | Developing countries | Excavation | Civil engineering landmarks | Tennessee | United States | Gulf of Mexico | Panama | Central America

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