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Illinois legislators review bill to repair rivers’ dams, locks
By TIM ALEXANDER Illinois Correspondent WASHINGTON, D.C. — When the U.S. House of Representatives returns from congressional Easter break this week, members will find a streamlined Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) awaiting their approval. The bill, which authorizes $1.8 billion for seven new 1,200-foot locks on the Upper Mississippi and Illinois rivers, passed through the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on March 15 and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee March 29. The bill will now be considered on the House floor on a date yet to be determined. Encouraged by the swift action taken so far by the House and Senate committees, the National Corn Growers Assoc. is optimistic of the bill’s passage. “With this movement we believe this will be the year we have a bill passed that will authorize the reinvestment into modernization of the very outdated locks and dams on the upper Mississippi and Illinois rivers,” said NCGA President Ken McCauley, adding that the organization will continue to keep momentum moving. “I’m encouraging all of our growers and partners to keep the push on their congressional members for this bill. It is seven years past due and the time is now to get this done.” The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s markup of the bill amended its terms to require at least half the workers involved in U.S. Army Corps of Engineers warterways projects be hired locally, when possible. The House markup is confined to projects included in last year’s bill. The Senate bill calls for funding levels similar to the Senate bill from 2006, NCGA reported. Paul Rohde, Midwest-area vice president of the newly-formed National Waterways Council, told news sources that the seven-year wait for WRDA passage has further eroded the nation’s waterways infrastructure but that he, too, is optimistic of the bill’s imminent approval. “I think there is a sense of urgency in Congress right now. It was ridiculous last year,” Rohde said. Rohde added that WRDA funding proposals will need to be updated before the bill is sent to the president. Bush said he would approve the legislation last year. “This isn’t getting any cheaper as the years go on,” Rohde said. This farm news was published in the April 18, 2007 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.