Online Staff Report
CREVE COEUR, Ill. — Thursday, Sept. 5, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., urged their colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives to pass the Water Resources Development Act and include legislation they authored when the House considers the measure in the coming weeks.
A key provision of the Senate bill is modeled on the Water Infrastructure Now Public-Private Partnership Act, which authorizes improvements to the nation’s water infrastructure — including locks and dams along the Illinois and Mississippi rivers — through public-private partnerships that would expedite projects and save taxpayers money.
The Army Corps of Engineers estimates it is currently carrying a $60 billion backlog of outstanding projects that will take decades to complete without outside investment.
“Locks and dams along the Illinois and Mississippi rivers, are in dire need of modernization, but the work to do so won’t be completed until 2090,” Durbin said. “Congresswoman Bustos and I introduced the Water Resources Development Act to jumpstart that process, and I am pleased that we were able to include it in the bill that passed the Senate in the spring. Literally, with each passing day, the chances of a major failure of infrastructure like the Peoria Lock grow, and with it, the stoppage of millions of tons of goods up and down the river. In a time of difficult budgets, this bill provides an innovative way to maintain our infrastructure investments, even as we face severe fiscal constraints in Washington.”
Bustos added: “Modernizing our region’s aging locks and dams is an absolute necessity to keep our local economy moving forward, but we can’t afford to wait decades for these improvements to take place. To help jump-start these needed repairs and upgrades, I joined with senators Durbin and Kirk to introduce a bipartisan, common-sense bill that would save taxpayer money while helping to expedite these construction projects that will create jobs and boost the economy of communities across Illinois. I’m encouraged the Senate has acted on our bill and will fight to make sure the House does the same in the coming months.”
The Water Resources Development Act, which contains several key provisions for Illinois, would invest in infrastructure along waterways like the Illinois and Mississippi rivers and help better prepare the state for extreme weather events like droughts and floods. The bill passed the Senate on a bipartisan 83-14 vote in May.
Durbin and Bustos introduced the bipartisan Water Infrastructure Now Public-Private Partnership Act along with U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., and U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill. The legislation would create a pilot program lasting five years to identify up to 15 previously authorized navigation, flood damage reduction, and hurricane and store damage reduction projects, and enter into new agreements to decentralize the planning, design and construction of those projects. The new agreements would also be open to additional private investment.
Durbin added: “Illinois businesses depend on our rivers to bring their goods to market quickly and in a cost-efficient way. That’s why it’s important to make sure we are making the proper investments to keep crucial waterways like the Illinois River open for business far into the future. The Senate has recognized that necessity and taken decisive, bipartisan action on this legislation. Congresswoman Bustos is doing everything she can to bring this bill to President Obama’s desk, and I hope the rest of the House follows her lead.”
Posted Sept. 5, 2013