CHICAGO Two bills aimed
at keeping navigation along the Mississippi River and related
waterways during droughts and severe weather conditions have
been endorsed by the Waterways Council, which represents major
shippers, as well as terminal operators and ship owners.
The Mississippi River Navigation
Sustainment Act (S.B.565) and the Water Infrastructure Now
Public-Private Partnership Act (S.B.566) were introduced by
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) and cosponsored by U.S. Sen.
Mark Kirk (R., Ill.). Durbin was especially active last year in
pressing the Obama administration to clear rock formations on
the middle Mississippi River that were uncovered when drought
conditions lowered the rivers water levels.
Citing flooding in 2011 and a
drought in 2012 that nearly crippled the shipping industry this
past winter, S.B.565 addresses "extreme weather events that
pose challenges to navigation and life along the Mississippi
River and are likely to become more severe and more frequent in
the coming years."
The bill calls for a Mississippi
River Basin study to improve coordinated management of water
resource projects related to weather. The study would also
identify federal actions needed to prevent and mitigate weather
impacts, including changing channel dimensions, lock and dam
operating procedures, and reservoir management.
The proposed legislation also
calls for updating forecasting technology and a 10-year pilot
program to restore and protect fish and wildlife habitats in
the middle Mississippi River.
The second bill would establish
a pilot program to explore public-private partnerships to plan,
design and build models to expedite project delivery and save
taxpayers money. S.B.566 would authorize the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers to accept up to 15 previously authorized navigation,
flood damage reduction, and hurricane and storm damage
reduction projects for the pilot program.
The Waterways Council "supports
legislation that investigates public-private partnerships for
waterways infrastructure, and legislation that injects
flexibility into river system management during changing
weather conditions," president and chief executive officer
Michael J. Toohey said.
The House Subcommittee on Water
Resources and Environment will hold a hearing April 16 on the
Water Resources Development Act, another measure supported by
the council. Peter Stephaich, who chairs Campbell
Transportation Co. Inc. and serves as the councils
secretary, is scheduled to testify.
The Water Resources Development
Act "focuses on developing, maintaining and supporting the
nations port and waterway infrastructure, as addressing
targeted flood protection and environmental restoration needs,"
subcommittee chairman Rep. Bob Gibbs (R., Ohio) said April