"The Army Corps of Engineers should be commended for their efforts over the last few months, but it is clear that we need to be better prepared for these extreme weather events that are becoming more frequent and more severe," Durbin added. "Our legislation will make government and businesses that rely on the Mississippi River more prepared for the next flood or drought that threatens jobs and economic activity."
Water Infrastructure Now Public-Private Partnership Act
Additional but separate legislation, also offered by Durbin and a group of Illinois legislators, calls for improved partnership between the public and private sector in reforming river infrastructure projects.
Joining Durbin, Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill.; Reps. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., and Rodney Davis submitted the plan Thursday, estimating that it would clear a $60 billion backlog in Army Corps projects, including infrastructure upgrades.
The "Water Infrastructure Now Public-Private Partnership Act" would authorize a pilot program for 5 years that would identify up to 15 previously authorized navigation, flood damage reduction, and hurricane and storm damage reduction projects for participation. It would also explore agreements between the Army Corps of Engineers and private entities for alternatives to traditional financing, planning, design, and construction models.
For the projects that are chosen for participation, the Army Corps of Engineers and private entities would enter into agreements to distribute the planning, design, and construction processes in an effort to speed up project delivery.
The legislation would require also an audit of activities by the private entities, and a study by a non-interested third party to determine whether a proposed agreement provides a better public and financial benefit than the current system.
Additionally, Durbin says, these agreements could bring more private investment in water infrastructure projects. The legislation does not allow privatization of any federal asset.