Durbin: Senate Passes WRDA Bill That Invests in Illinois Priorities and Will Make Us Better Prepared for Droughts, Floods

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today said that the Water Resources Development Act of 2013 that the U.S. Senate passed earlier today by a strong bipartisan vote of 83-14 invests in Illinois priorities and will make Illinois and the Midwest better prepared for extreme weather events like droughts and floods. 


“This legislation is important to the commerce that moves on the Mississippi River, the Illinois River and other Illinois waterways; to those communities and towns throughout our state that rely on the Army Corps of Engineers to protect them from flooding and other storm damage; and to the natural resources that our rivers, streams and wetlands represent,” said Durbin.


“I’m pleased that the bill addresses extreme weather.  It’s clear that extreme weather events are becoming more severe and more frequent.  Consider the last year: the two costliest natural disasters in the world occurred in the United States – the Midwest drought and Hurricane Sandy, costing $100 billion.  We can’t ignore the reality that weather events like these are the new normal.”


Today’s Senate passed legislation would:


  • Create 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 without outside investment.  This provision is based on legislation that Durbin introduced with U.S. Senator Mark Kirk, U.S. Representative Cheri Bustos (D-IL) and U.S. Representative Rodney Davis (R-IL) called the Water Infrastructure Now Public-Private Partnership Act.  The pilot program is intended to help expedite projects – including lock and dam modernization along the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers – and save taxpayers money. 


  • Authorize a study of the entire Mississippi River Basin.  This would be a first of its kind study to help better understand how the Basin functions as a system and how it can best be managed in order to maintain safe and reliable navigation and protect lives and property, especially during times of severe flooding and drought.  This provision is based on a bill Durbin authored called the Mississippi River Navigation Sustainment Act and introduced with U.S. Representative Bill Enyart (D-IL) and U.S. Representative Rodney Davis (R-IL).  The goal is to maintain the critical movement of goods on the Mississippi River during periods of extreme weather through better Corps water management procedures, improved river forecasting, more flexibility for the Corps of Engineers to respond, and more effective environmental management.


  • Address the increasing severity and frequency of extreme weather events.  The bill would initiate studies by the National Academy of Sciences and GAO to evaluate how best to respond to and mitigate extreme weather events.  It would also give the Army Corps of Engineers greater authority to learn from and prepare for extreme weather events.


  • Continue the fight against the spread of Asian Carp.  The bill authorizes the Army Corps of Engineers to implement measures recommended by an Asian Carp study that was authorized in the 2007 Water Resources Development Act with any modifications or emergency measures determined necessary. 


  • Implement a National Levee Safety Program.  Many communities in Illinois find themselves in the difficult situation of having their levees decertified, but without the funds to make the necessary repairs.  This program would establish safety standards and provide assistance to locals whose levees require rehabilitation. 


  • Consolidate three Metro East levee projects into one authority.  The bill would combine the Prairie DuPont, East St. Louis and Wood River levee projects into one project authority to allow the Army Corps of Engineers greater flexibility and efficiency in using federal funding to complete the projects.