Senator Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Thursday spearheaded groups of legislators from Illinois in securing support for maintaining commercial river traffic on the Mississippi River during droughts and floods and enhancing public-private partnership for river projects.
Additional legislation introduced as companion bills in the House and Senate calls for broad reforms in river infrastructure and Army Corps project systems.
Mississippi River Navigation Sustainment Act
In partnership with Reps. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., and Bill Enyart, D-Ill., Durbin announced one of two sponsored bills to reform the river system. The first, the "Mississippi River Navigation Sustainment Act" specifically calls for projects to improve disaster plans for floods and droughts on the Mississippi.
Legislators begin push to reform river transportation
Among the provisions, Durbin's bill calls for an extreme weather management study, improved disaster forecasting tools, expanded flexibility for the Army Corps' response plans, and an environmental pilot program to protect and restore the fish and wildlife habitat in the Middle Mississippi river.
In highlighting aspects of the bill, Durbin recalled the 2012 drought's toll on river traffic.
"We came close to economic catastrophe when ongoing drought conditions threatened to disrupt the movement of billions of dollars in goods along the Mississippi River. Only through better than expected rainfall, the expedited removal of rock pinnacles at Congress' request and some creative reservoir management was the river able to stay open," Durbin said.