Durbin To Army Secretary: It Is Time For The Corps To Come To The Table On Metro East Levees

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Defense Committee, met today with Secretary of the Army John McHugh and Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno and insisted the Army help resolve an issue related to planned improvements to the levees in the Metro East area of Illinois. Local leaders and community members in Madison, St. Clair, and Monroe Counties have raised money to make much-needed improvements to federal levee projects in their communities but have met with nothing but resistance from the Army Corps in their ongoing attempts to work together.

“Community leaders in southwestern Illinois have worked long and hard to move forward on the levee projects in the Metro East.  The fact that members of these communities have taken the unique step of taxing themselves to make needed improvements merits heightened cooperation from the Army Corps.  I am disappointed in the St. Louis Corps’ refusal to work with the local sponsors on this proposal.  Today I urged Secretary McHugh to address this problem, and to require Project Labor Agreements on the levee improvement projects in the Metro East,” Durbin said.


Last year, after the Army Corps of Engineers decided not to use a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) for the first major levee improvement projects in the Metro East region, Durbin joined former U.S. Representative Bill Enyart (D-IL) in urging the Corps to use PLAs in future levee improvement projects.  In a letter to Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works), Jo-Ellen Darcy, the Illinois members cited President Obama’s February 2009 Executive Order, which encourages the use of Project Labor Agreements on large federal construction projects because the agreements can “promote economy and efficiency in federal procurement.”

A PLA is a pre-hire collective bargaining agreement with one or more labor organizations that establishes the terms and conditions of employment for a specific construction project. The local sponsors of the Metro East levee projects favor the inclusion of PLAs in each competitive bid submitted during the open bidding process. According to the Southwestern Illinois Flood Prevention District Council, PLAs have been used successfully on nearly all major projects, public and private, in recent years in Southwestern Illinois. 

On March 26, 2013, Durbin and former Congressman Enyart sent a letter to Darcy urging the Army Corps of Engineers to engage in a PLA for the levee rehabilitation projects in the Metro East, Illinois region. The Illinois members cited President Obama’s February 2009 Executive Order encouraging the use of Project Labor Agreements – which he said, “promote economy and efficiency in federal procurement” – for federal construction projects.