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Ill. lawmakers seek deal on waterways projects

Published: Thursday, March 13, 2014 1:00 p.m. CDT
Caption
In this Sept. 5, 2013 photo, Col. Mark Deschenes with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers tells Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, about the economic impact of lock and dam operations along the river as they tour the 75-year-old lock and dam in Peoria. Illinois lawmakers say congressional negotiators are moving toward an agreement on legislation authorizing improvements to shipping channels, flood protections and other waterways projects around the country. Among the Illinois projects are the lock and dam in Peoria and the Olmsted Lock and Dam between Illinois and Kentucky. (AP Photo/Journal Star, Fred Zwicky)

PEORIA (AP) — Illinois lawmakers say congressional negotiators are moving toward an agreement on legislation to authorize improvements to shipping channels, flood protections and other waterways projects around the country.

Among the state's projects are Peoria's 75-year-old lock and dam and the Olmsted Lock and Dam on the Ohio River between Illinois and Kentucky. Different versions of the legislative package have passed the the House and Senate and diverge primarily over how much money should be spent.

In interviews with the (Peoria) Journal Star (http://bit.ly/1evrzWL ), lawmakers from Illinois said a deal is of higher importance than most people realize and will do more than just fix critical pieces of infrastructure.

"It will create jobs," said U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, an East Moline Democrat. "Construction jobs, engineering jobs, good jobs."

The Peoria area's lock and dam, located on the Illinois River at Creve Coeur, was built in 1939 and was last renovated in 1990.

U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, a Peoria Republican, told the newspaper that a failure of a lock in Illinois' system would disrupt shipments of everything from corn and wheat to jet fuel bound for Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.

"Half the jet fuel burned at O'Hare Airport goes up the river systems. So you can imagine all kinds of calamities if a lock broke and barges couldn't get up the river," Schock said.

Republican U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Channahon said that unfortunately many people in Illinois don't realize the importance of the issue.

Bustos is involved in the negotiations as a member of the joint House-Senate committee. She said most of the discussion is centered on how much money to set aside for the projects and she noted that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has a $60 billion backlog of waterways projects.

"The concern is that ... we can't have it come back significantly more expensive or it's not going to pass," Bustos said.

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Information from: Journal Star, http://pjstar.com

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