The U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee voted unanimously Thursday to approve the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA), a move welcomed by Illinois Soybean Growers (ISG). The bill would speed up Army Corps of Engineers projects and boost harbor maintenance funding.
“The vote is a positive sign, and we call on the full House to take up and pass WRRDA without delay. Soybeans are the nation’s largest agricultural export, and approximately half of all soybeans grown here are sent overseas,” says Bill Raben, soybean farmer from Ridgway, Ill., and Illinois Soybean Association chairman. “Illinois soybean farmers rely on the network of waterways, locks, dams and ports to move our products from farm to market. Many links in that chain have been, or are in danger of, a catastrophic failure that would bring a stop to commerce. This bill and its companion in the Senate would begin the process of addressing the backlog and improving our vital waterways infrastructure.”
Included in the legislation is the Water Infrastructure Now Public-Private Partnership Act, introduced in March by Illinois Senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk, who teamed up with U.S. Representatives Cheri Bustos and Rodney Davis. The 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. The Army Corps of Engineers estimates a $60 billion backlog of outstanding projects that will take decades to complete without outside investment.
The measure is expected to be considered by the full House in early October.