Provision to speed up repairs to aging locks and dams on Mississippi, Illinois rivers passes House

October 23, 2013

Online Staff Report

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Oct. 23, 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 — which could help speed up repairs and upgrades to the aging locks and dams on the Mississippi and Illinois rivers — was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives. The provision was included in the Water Resources Reform & Development Act (WRRDA), which passed with bipartisan support.

I’m pleased to announce that our bipartisan, common sense solution to modernize our region’s aging locks and dams has been approved by the House of Representatives and is one step closer to reality,” said Bustos, a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “Improving our locks and dams is critical to our region’s economic health and we can’t afford to wait any longer. To help jump-start these needed repairs and upgrades, I gladly partnered with Senators Durbin and Kirk and Congressman Davis on this common sense idea that could not only save taxpayer dollars, but could also create jobs and boost the economy of our region of Illinois. I look forward continuing to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure this important bill becomes law.”

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, and look forward to working with them and Senator Kirk to see it signed into law.”

Kirk added: “As a longtime supporter of public-private partnerships, I am pleased the House has passed a water resources bill that includes our bipartisan legislation to improve the country’s locks and dams and save taxpayers money. By allowing for use of public-private partnerships in waterway infrastructure projects, we can unlock the full potential of the Illinois river system and turn the Mississippi River into an agricultural export drag strip for our state. We need strong leadership to capitalize on the Panama Canal’s expansion, and this bipartisan bill will help play an important role in boosting the Illinois economy.”

Davis said: “With a $60 billion water project backlog, I believe our bipartisan, bicameral Public-Private Partnership Pilot Program provides a solution to move projects forward. We’ll see many other benefits from this innovative approach as well, including taking a financial burden off of the Army Corps of Engineers and the taxpayers, and growth in the private sector. I’d like to thank Congresswoman Bustos and Senators Kirk and Durbin for their hard work on this provision and hope that we can present more commonsense solutions to our nation’s infrastructure issues.”

In March, Bustos, Durbin, Kirk and Davis joined together to introduce the Water Infrastructure Now Public-Private Partnership Act (WIN P3 Act), which would help speed improvements to the nation’s water infrastructure — including projects like 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 Oct. 23, 2013

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