WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Springfield, and U.S. Rep. Bill Enyart, D-Belleville, plan to sponsor legislation Thursday that would give Southern Illinois authorities and the Army Corps of Engineers greater power to respond quickly to extreme weather events on the Mississippi River.
"The Mississippi River Navigation Sustainment Act" -- which would represent freshman Enyart's first sponsorship of a bill -- is aimed at maintaining traffic along the river through a variety of tools: the implementation of an extreme weather management study and improved river forecasting, and giving the corps greater flexibility to ensure the river stays open, Durbin said in a statement Wednesday night.
Durbin noted in the statement the Midwest came close to economic catastrophe in recent months when drought conditions threatened to disrupt barge traffic along the river.
Durbin commended the corps for its success at keeping the river navigable, but added that "it is clear that we need to be better prepared for these extreme weather events that are becoming more frequent and more severe."
Durbin, the Senate's assistant majority leader, also plans to introduce a second bill Thursday that would set up a pilot program to allow private-public partnerships between the corps and private entities to speed the completion of water-based construction projects with the help of private capital.
Titled "The Water Infrastructure Now Public-Private Partnership Act," the measure will be co-sponsored by junior Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Highland Park. It will be sponsored in the U.S. House by U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-East Moline.