New bill to compensate for backlogged dam projects

By Beau Ebenezer

September 5, 2013 Updated Sep 6, 2013 at 12:45 AM CDT

CREVE COEUR Ill -- U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and Congresswoman Cheri Bustos made a stop at the Peoria Lock and Dam, Thursday afternoon, in an effort to push forward their Water Infrastructure Now Public/Private Partnership Act.

The bill, which was introduced into their respective houses earlier this year, aims to improve the state's lock and dam system along the Illinois and Mississippi River.

"The system is getting old, and this lock and dam that we toured is almost 80 years old," said Senator Durbin. "Literally within each passing day there is a chance of failure. Failure, of course, would stack boats up river, waiting for the opportunity to pass through. That would lose money every minute of every day."

Currently, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said they are carrying a backlog of $60 billion in outstanding projects.

This backlog includes the modernization of locks and dams that date back to the 1930s.

They add that it will take decades to complete without outside investment.

"Right now, the Corps has a very limited capacity to receive funds that are not currently established in authorizations," said U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Colonel Mark Deschenes. "This bill would open up some possibilities for interested investors to come from other angles to look at innovative ways to get money into the infrastructure."

Bustos said repairs to infrastructures like the Peoria Lock and Dam are vital for the state's economy.

"60% of all agricultural products go through the locks and dams system, so that is how important this is to our state economy," said Bustos. "Frankly, it's important to feeding the world because it goes through this system right here."

The Transportation Committee is expected to begin discussing the bill in the coming weeks.

Bustos added that if the bill moves to the House, they will vote on it sometime in October.

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