Obama signs bill that will help with locks, dams, levees

News-DemocratJune 10, 2014 

President Obama signed into law the Conference Report of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 on Tuesday.

The legislation, which was co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Springfield, and U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk, R-Chicago, and passed by the U.S. Senate at the end of May, authorizes critical investments in Illinois priorities and will help better prepare Illinois, the Midwest, and the country for extreme weather events like droughts and floods.

"Summers in our state bring rising temperatures that can cause severe drought just as easily as flash floods," said Durbin. "Communities in

Illinois -- especially those near major waterways like the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers -- know how important our locks and dams are to their safety and to the flow of local commerce. After decades of neglect, our nation's system of locks and dams are authorized to receive critical upgrades that are long overdue."

The Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 will:

* Create a pilot program to improve the nation's water

infrastructure through public-private partnerships.

This provision is based on legislation that Durbin and Kirk introduced with U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-East Moline, and U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, called the Water Infrastructure Now Public-Private Partnership Act.

* Improve navigation in the Mississippi River Basin. The bill authorizes a first-of-its-kind study to help better understand how the basin functions as a system and how it can best be managed in order to maintain safe and reliable navigation and protect lives and property, especially during times of severe flooding and drought. These measures are based on a bill Durbin authored called the Mississippi River Navigation Sustainment Act and introduced with U.S. Rep. Bill Enyart, D-Belleville, and Davis.

* Assist metro-east communities improve their levees. The bill would combine the several levee projects in the metro-east region into one project authority to allow the Army Corps of Engineers greater flexibility and efficiency in using federal funding to complete the projects. The bill also would change eligibility requirements to allow these projects to receive work-in-kind credit, which can assist local efforts to rebuild the levees to authorized levels of protection.

* Continue the fight against the spread of Asian carp.

* Address the increasing severity and frequency of extreme weather events.

* Protect the Lake Michigan Shoreline.

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