As the last Congress came to a close in 2006, many of us were hopeful that a compromise version of the reauthorization of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) would finally be enacted. Both the House and the Senate passed versions of the bill last year, but, unfortunately, a final version never came to fruition and the Congress closed without the bill becoming law.
As we begin the 110th Congress, I am very hopeful that WRDA reauthorization will not take long to get to President Bush. For those of us who have a vested interest in the revitalization of the Illinois River, this legislation is very important. This act is the legislation that authorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to carry out projects, and therefore has a tremendous impact on what we do on the Illinois River.
Since my first election in 1994, issues involving the Illinois River have been at the forefront of my agenda. My office worked closely with former Lieutenant Governor Bob Kustra when the state established the Illinois River Coordinating Council and outlined the Illinois Rivers 2020 action plan. We worked closely with both the state and federal governments to create the highlysuccessful Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program for the Illinois River Basin. And we have convened many meetings to facilitate work between the various stakeholders involved with river issues.
This version of WRDA is long-overdue. The current authorization for the act expired in 2000. While Congress has not been able to agree on reauthorization language in that time, people involved with Illinois River efforts have moved forward with plans for projects throughout the watershed. Federal, state and local officials, along with private landowners and interest groups have identified a wide-range of worthy projects that could enhance the river. Over the years we have seen some successes with projects throughout the watershed experimental islands north of Peoria, thousands of acres enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program—an impressive cooperative program on the Mackinaw River—yet there is still much work to be done. If we are to make great strides with revitalizing the Illinois River, then WRDA is one of the best vehicles to move us forward.
This legislation allows a funding framework for many projects to become reality. One of the most important components of the legislation is for navigation improvements and ecosystem restoration along the Illinois River and the Upper Mississippi River. The bill, as passed by the House last year, calls for the upgrading of the deteriorating locks at Peoria and LaGrange on the Illinois River. Just as important as the lock upgrades, the bill also provides over $1.5 billion for ecosystem projects along the two rivers.
I believe we can make great progress in the watershed if this bill becomes law. My office, in cooperation with state and federal officials, is committed to efforts to revitalize the Illinois River. I am hopeful Congress can take the legislation from last year and quickly pass it in the new session so we can move forward on Illinois River issues. IBI