I understand the reasons why the President vetoed this measure, but the reauthorization of WRDA was long overdue, as the law’s authorization had expired in 2002. Additionally, the funding provided under this bill is vitally important to our efforts to revitalize the Illinois River. 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 river.
We have made some great progress over the past decade in terms of rehabilitating the watershed—experimental islands north of Peoria, thousands of acres enrolled in CREP, an impressive cooperative program on the Mackinaw River—yet there is still much work to be done. If we are to make great strides in revitalizing the Illinois River, 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.
Another important project funded under this bill is an effort to create deeper water habit in the southern Peoria Lake through the creation of additional islands built from sediment dredged from the river. The islands built by Chillicothe have proved to be successful in securing a deep water habitat, something which is important not only to navigation, but also to the habitat of the river. It is the hope that this success can be recreated in the area near downtown Peoria.
From the very first day I announced for Congress, the Illinois River has been one of my top priorities. It is the greatest natural resource we have in the great state of Illinois and I will continue to advocate for the river as long as I am in office. IBI