Bipartisan bill to improve Illinois’ locks and dams moves to House floor for vote

Online Staff Report

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Thursday, Sept. 19, U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., and U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., announced a key provision of their bipartisan and bicameral legislation to help speed up repairs and upgrades to the aging locks and dams on the Mississippi and Illinois rivers overwhelmingly passed the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure with bipartisan support.

The provision was included in the Water Resources Reform & Development Act (WRRDA), which will now go to the House floor for a vote by the full chamber.

I’m pleased to announce that our bipartisan, common-sense bill to help modernize our region’s aging locks and dams received overwhelming support by the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and will now go to the House floor for a vote,” said Bustos, a member of the committee. “Improving our locks and dams is a necessity to keep our region’s economy moving forward, but we can’t afford to wait decades for them to take place. To help jump-start these needed repairs and upgrades, I partnered with senators Durbin and Kirk and Congressman Davis on this common-sense idea that could save taxpayer dollars while creating jobs and boosting the economy of communities across Illinois. I look forward to seeing this important bill move another step forward.”

Durbin said: “Illinois is home to some of the largest waterway systems in the country, and the infrastructure supporting them is in dire need of investment. Our Water Infrastructure Now Public-Private Partnership Act provides a new, innovative way to encourage investment by promoting the use of public-private partnerships to speed up the planning and construction of water infrastructure projects. I thank representatives Bustos and Davis for championing this important bipartisan effort in the House.”

Kirk added: “Today, our bipartisan legislation to use public-private partnerships to improve the country’s locks and dams passed an important milestone with its passage out of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Through public-private collaboration, we can unlock the full potential of our waterways and turn the Mississippi River into an export drag strip for our state. This bill comes at a crucial time as we near the completion of Panama Canal’s expansion, which will play an important role in boosting Illinois’ economy.”

Davis said: “Our region’s waterways, chief among them the Mississippi and Illinois rivers, are absolutely critical to the economic well-being of the entire country. But the infrastructure of these rivers is in serious need of improvement. I was pleased to support WRRDA in the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and now that the bill is headed for a vote on the House floor, we are one step closer to helping to fulfill our responsibility to invest in our nation’s infrastructure, and by upgrading our locks and dams, we can ensure that the Mississippi River and other Illinois waterways will be reliable arteries to move goods and services for years to come.”

In March, Bustos, Durbin, Kirk and Davis joined together to introduce the Water Infrastructure Now Public-Private Partnership Act (WIN P3 Act), which authorizes improvements to the nation’s water infrastructure — including the aging locks and dams along the Illinois and Mississippi rivers — through public-private partnerships that could expedite projects and save taxpayers money. The Army Corps of Engineers estimates it is carrying a $60 billion backlog of outstanding projects that will take decades to complete without outside investment.

The legislation would create a pilot program lasting five years to identify up to 15 previously authorized navigation, flood damage reduction, and hurricane and storm 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.

In May, the U.S. Senate passed their version of WRRDA, which included a key provision of the WIN P3 Act, on a bipartisan vote of 83-14.

Posted Sept. 19, 2013

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