Lawmakers endorse public-private partnerships with new dam modernization bill

By Agri-Pulse staff

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Together we can feed the Beesp class="MsoNormalCxSpFirst" style="margin-bottom: 6pt; background-position: initial initial; background-repeat: initial initial;">WASHINGTON, March 14, 2013 - U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., U.S. Sens. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., today introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation to improve the nation's water infrastructure - including locks and dams along the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers - through public-private partnerships that would expedite projects and save taxpayers money.

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 Army Corps of Engineers estimates a $60 billion backlog of outstanding projects that will take decades to complete without outside investment.

 “The Illinois and Mississippi rivers are the lifeblood of the Midwest's economic engine,” said Senator Kirk. “At a time when the Army Corps of Engineers is facing severe funding shortfalls and a growing backlog of authorized projects, we need to explore new ways to bring private support to our public assets.  This legislation allows important lock and dam and flood control projects the opportunity to engage in a public-private agreement for project management, keeping costs down and speeding construction.  I am a strong supporter of innovative financing and project delivery in infrastructure, and look forward to the public-private partnerships that will result from this effort.”

“Over five years ago, I worked with my colleagues to authorize a program to ensure safer, more reliable and more efficient navigation along the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers by expanding and modernizing the locks and dams,” said Durbin.  “Unfortunately, the first benefits of this modernization won't be felt until 2047 - and that was the prediction before sequestration.  It's clear we need a new model - one that speeds up the process of planning and constructing projects and brings to the table greater private investment.  Our bipartisan bill will provide a new way to upgrade and maintain our water infrastructure investments even as we face severe fiscal constraints in Washington.”

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. 

Bustos spoke on the measure during a one minute floor speech today.   


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