More than 77 million tons of commodities, including aggregates, grains and minerals were shipped on Illinois rivers in 2012.
CHICAGO — Following passage of legislation critical to Illinois’ water infrastructure, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) Wednesday joined with Del Wilkins of Canal Barge Co., Terry Spencer of North American Salt Co. and Ed Maher of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 to outline the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 (WRRDA) and discuss the impact of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers on the Illinois economy.
The group met at North American Salt Company, which sells 7.6 million tons of rock salt during the winter months and provides for 25 percent of the country’s de-icing needs.
WRRDA creates a pilot program to improve the nation’s water infrastructure through public-private partnerships. The Army Corps of Engineers estimates a $60 billion backlog of outstanding projects that will take decades to complete if traditional project delivery processes are maintained. This provision is based on legislation Kirk introduced with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Illinois) and U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Illinois) called the Water Infrastructure Now Public-Private Partnership Act (WIN-P3). The pilot program is intended to help expedite necessary repairs and upgrades across Illinois’ waterway transportation network — including lock and dam modernization along the Mississippi and Illinois rivers — and save taxpayers money.
“One barge on Illinois’ waterways can transport the same amount of cargo as 58 large semi trucks,” Kirk said. “We have a tremendous natural infrastructure that helps keep Illinois and America competitive, bringing millions of tons of commodities each year. The Kirk-Durbin language passed in WRRDA has the potential to modernize and transform our water infrastructure to ensure these economic superhighways are equipped to meet the demands of the 21st century.”
More than 77 million tons of commodities, including aggregates, grains and minerals were shipped on Illinois rivers in 2012. Most dam and lock gates on the Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway were originally built in the 1930s and designed to last a mere 50 years. With the Illinois and Mississippi rivers serving as the economic superhighways for the state of Illinois, this proposal, backed by Sen. Kirk, will unleash the potential for public-private partnerships to help modernize the state’s infrastructure and maintain the vitality of the inland waterway system.
“The infrastructure of our country is a vital part of the economic engine of our country,” said Del Wilkins of Canal Barge Co. and President of Illinois Marine Towing. “It’s our competitive edge to the world; we see the United States today moving 19 billion tons of commerce as a system between barge, rail and truck.”
“I want to thank Sen. Kirk for his leadership on this highly bipartisan bill,” said Ed Maher of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150. “This bill is centered around things that we all, as Americans, value. We’re talking about job creation, we’re talking about public safety, and we’re talking about utilizing our infrastructure to enhance the commerce of the United States.”