Bustos, Durbin, Kirk and Davis bill to improve locks and dams moves forward

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record

Today, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (D-IL-17), Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Congressman Rodney Davis (R-IL-13) announced that 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 was included in the Water Resources Reform & Development Act (WRRDA) that was released yesterday in the House.  WRRDA will likely be voted on in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee next week and, if approved, will 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 has been included in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act,” said Congresswoman Cheri Bustos, a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “Improving our locks and dams is a necessity to keep our 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 and Congressman Davis to introduce legislation that could save taxpayer money while creating jobs and boosting the economy of communities across Illinois. I'm encouraged the House has included a key provision of our bill in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act and look forward to continuing to move this legislation forward.”

“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,” Durbin said. “I thank Representatives Bustos and Davis for championing this important bipartisan effort in the House.”

"I'm pleased to see that the House is moving forward with a water resources bill that includes our bipartisan legislation to use public-private partnerships to improve the country's locks and dams," Sen. Kirk said.  "By authorizing public-private partnerships for waterway infrastructure projects, we can unlock the full potential of the Illinois river system and turn the Mississippi River into an export drag strip for our state.  We need a bold vision to capitalize on the expansion of the Panama Canal and this bipartisan legislation will play an important role in boosting the Illinois economy."

“Our region’s waterways, chief among them the Mississippi and Illinois rivers, are absolutely critical to the economic well-being of the entire country,” said Congressman Rodney Davis. “But the infrastructure of these rivers is in serious need of improvement. Our legislation, included in the House WRRDA, will help us 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 currently 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 fifteen 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.

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.