Bipartisan legislation 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.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark Kirk (R-Illinois) and Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), along with U.S. Reps. Rodney Davis (R-Illinois) and Cheri Bustos (D-Illinois), announced that key provisions 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 were included in the Conference Report of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014.
The legislation 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.
Text of the Conference Report was released Thursday by members of the bipartisan, bicameral House Senate Conference Committee of which both Bustos and Davis were members. The committee was tasked with working out the differences between the Senate-passed Water Resources Development Act of 2013 and the House-passed Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013. The Conference Report must now receive a vote by the full House and Senate, which could happen as early as next week.
“The reliability and efficiency of the Mississippi and Illinois rivers is critical to our global economic competitiveness,” Kirk said. “By facilitating the use of public-private partnerships to modernize our waterway infrastructure, this bipartisan language will continue to elevate the Mississippi River as an agricultural export drag strip for our state.
“With the Mississippi and Illinois rivers, Illinois is home to one of the largest waterway systems in the country which is in dire need of investment,” Durbin said. “Our economic competitiveness depends on a modern waterway transportation network that can operate efficiently even in the face of challenges like extreme weather. Our legislation will encourage the use of public-private partnerships to speed up the planning and construction of water infrastructure projects.”
“Our region’s waterways, chief among them the Mississippi and Illinois rivers, are absolutely critical to the economic well-being of the entire country,” Davis said. “But the infrastructure of these rivers is in serious need of improvement. As one of only two members from the state of Illinois, along with Rep. Bustos, to serve on the WRDA Conference Committee, I’m pleased that we were able to ensure that our public-private partnership language to assist in fulfilling our responsibility to invest in our nation’s infrastructure was included in the final bipartisan, bicameral, agreed-to bill. By investing in our water infrastructure, which includes 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 2013, Kirk, Durbin, Davis and Bustos introduced the bipartisan, bicameral Water Infrastructure Now Public-Private Partnership Act — later cosponsored by U.S. Reps. Bill Enyart (D-Ill.), John Shimkus (R-Ill.), and Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) — 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. In December, Kirk, Durbin, Davis, Bustos, Enyart, Shimkus, Quigley and U.S. Reps. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) and Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa) called on members of a House-Senate Conference Committee to protect provisions based on the Water Infrastructure Now Public-Private Partnership Act.