Bustos, Durbin, Kirk, Davis: We Must Work Together To Improve Our Deteriorating Waterways Infrastructure

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) and U.S. Representatives Cheri Bustos (D-IL) and Rodney Davis (R-IL) today called on Illinois Governor Pat Quinn to lead Illinois stakeholders – including members of the agriculture, mining, and shipping industries – in a coordinated effort to take advantage of pilot program that could help speed up repairs and upgrades to the aging locks and dams on the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers.

“We can’t wait decades to make the changes that are needed now to our water infrastructure,” the Members wrote. “We must work together to complete these projects as soon as possible at the best cost possible.”

The new program is based on bipartisan, bicameral legislation Durbin, Kirk, Bustos, and Davis introduced last year that seeks to improve the nation’s water infrastructure through public-private partnerships and help expedite projects – including lock and dam modernization along the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers – while saving taxpayers money. Key provisions of the legislation were included in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014, which was signed into law by President Obama last week.

In March 2013, Durbin, Kirk, Bustos and Davis introduced the Water Infrastructure Now Public-Private Partnership Act – later cosponsored by U.S. Representatives Bill Enyart (D-IL), John Shimkus (R-IL), and Mike Quigley (D-IL) – which would create a pilot program to explore agreements between the Army Corps of Engineers and private entities as alternatives to traditional financing, planning, design, and construction models. That legislation would authorize a pilot program that would identify previously authorized navigation, flood damage reduction, and hurricane and storm damage reduction projects for participation. More information is available here.

In December, Durbin, Kirk, Bustos, Davis, Enyart, Shimkus, Quigley and U.S. Representatives Bruce Braley (D-IA) and Dave Loebsack (D-IA) called on members of a House-Senate Conference Committee to protect provisions based on the Water Infrastructure Now Public-Private Partnership Act. That letter is available here.

The full text of today’s letter is available below:

 

June 17, 2014

 

The Honorable Pat Quinn

Governor

State of Illinois

207 State House

Springfield, IL 62706

 

Dear Governor Quinn:

This week, President Obama signed into law the Water Resources Reform and Development Act to make major improvements to our nation’s water infrastructure. We encourage the State of Illinois to work with stakeholders to take advantage of new authority in the law that can speed infrastructure improvements to the state’s waterway.

The measure will help improve commercial and recreational navigation on our waterways while protecting the precious natural resources that are our rivers, streams, and wetlands for future generations. It also updates many of the funding mechanisms and processes we use to maintain and build America’s levees, locks and dams, and ports.

The law sets up a new pilot program based on legislation we authored called the Water Infrastructure Now Public-Private Partnership Act. This pilot program seeks to decentralize the often slow Army Corps of Engineers planning, design, and construction process by allowing communities and other stakeholders to develop new innovative financing structures and project delivery plans. These new partnerships could significantly reduce the Corps’ current $60 billion backlog in projects.

Part of that backlog is a series of projects very important to Illinois and the Midwest – the expansion and improvements to the locks and dams on the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. The transport millions of tons of product each year on these two great economic arteries relies on the system of locks and dams.

At the same time, many of these locks and dams – built over 90 years ago – are outdated and deteriorating. Each passing day brings with it a greater chance of a catastrophic failure. Despite that risk, necessary upgrades to these massive structures aren’t expected to be completed for almost a century. For Illinois’ farmers, miners, shippers, and our future economic growth that just isn’t soon enough.

We encourage the State to lead an effort amongst stakeholders to take advantage of the new authority under this program to help speed these much needed improvements. We stand ready to support your efforts at the federal level as a plan is developed.

We can’t wait decades to make the changes that are needed now to our water infrastructure. We must work together to complete these projects as soon as possible at the best cost possible.

 

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