WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark Kirk (R-Illinois) and Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) and U.S. Reps. Rodney Davis (R-Illinois) and Cheri Bustos (D-Illinois) Tuesday called on Gov. 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 Kirk, Durbin, Davis and Bustos 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, Kirk, Durbin, Davis and Bustos introduced the Water Infrastructure Now Public-Private Partnership Act – later cosponsored by U.S. Reps. John Shimkus (R-Illinois), Bill Enyart (D-Illinois) and Mike Quigley (D-Illinois) – 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, Shimkus, Enyart, 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.