Durbin, Kirk Announce Senate Approval of Their Legislation to Promote Public-Private Partnerships to Repair Locks and Dams

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) today announced that their bipartisan, bicameral legislation to improve the nation’s water infrastructure through public-private partnerships was approved by the U.S. Senate as part of the Water Resources Development Act of 2013 (S.601).  The Army Corps of Engineers estimates a $60 billion backlog of outstanding projects that will take decades to complete without outside investment.

“Illinois is home to some of the largest waterway systems in the country and the infrastructure supporting them is in dire need of investment.  I am pleased that the Senate showed strong bipartisan support for the Water Resources Development Act – a bill that includes our legislation to encourage the use of public-private partnerships to speed up the planning and construction of water infrastructure projects.  I’m hopeful this provision will help speed up the modernization of locks and dams on the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers which aren’t scheduled to be completed until 2090,” said Durbin.  “This new, innovative way to upgrade and maintain our water infrastructure investments will help the Army Corps clear its project backlog even as we face severe fiscal constraints in Washington.”

“At nearly half the cost of the previous water resources bill, this legislation readies our water infrastructure to meet the demands of the 21st century,” Senator Kirk said. “Aging locks and dams contribute to delays along rivers like the Mississippi, holding back our potential for economic growth if left unattended. This act will reverse the growing backlog of projects, and I look forward to seeing the public-private partnership investments move forward to maximize efficiency and minimize costs to our taxpayers.”

In March, Durbin and Kirk teamed up with U.S. Representative Cheri Bustos (D-IL) and U.S. Representative Rodney Davis (R-IL) to introduce the Water Infrastructure Now Public-Private Partnership Act 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.  The pilot program is intended to help expedite projects – including lock and dam modernization along the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers – and save taxpayers money. 

“The Mississippi and Illinois Rivers are absolutely critical to the economic well-being of our region, and that is why action must be taken to modernize the aging locks and dams that help transport our goods and products world-wide,” Bustos said.  “By encouraging public-private partnerships, our bipartisan bill will expedite the planning and construction of projects that will make the movement of the high-quality goods of our region more swift, efficient and safe.  I am pleased and encouraged that the Senate showed bipartisan support for this legislation and I am hopeful that the House will do the same.”

“This bipartisan, bicameral legislation will give us a modern, innovative and cost-effective way to address the backlog of water infrastructure projects, including aging locks and dams, and provide some long-term economic certainty along our nation’s waterways,” said Davis. “I’m thankful the Senate acted so quickly on this provision so we can ensure that the Mississippi River and other Illinois waterways will be reliable arteries to move goods and services for years to come.”

The Water Infrastructure Now Public-Private Partnership Act would authorize a pilot program for 5 years that would identify up to 15 previously authorized navigation, flood damage reduction, and hurricane and storm damage reduction projects for participation. 

For the projects that are chosen for participation, the Army Corps of Engineers and private entities would enter into innovative new agreements to decentralize the planning, design, and construction processes in an effort to speed up project delivery while maintaining safety.  Additionally, these agreements could bring more private investment in water infrastructure projects.