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IL Congressmen Pressure Army Corps to Use Project Labor Agreement for Levee Reconstruction


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Illinois Senator Dick Durbin and Rep. Bill Enyart are criticizing the Army Corps of Engineers for not using a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) on the initial phases of Southern Illinois levee reconstruction.  At a press conference, the two lawmakers asked the Corps of Engineers to reconsider this decision for upcoming phases of construction.

The group behind the $161 million in improvements, the Southwestern Illinois Flood Prevention District Council, admits that all PLAs used in the region — for both public and private projects — have been successful.

In a letter to Assistant Secretary of the Army Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy, Durbin wrote:

“Frankly, this decision is baffling to a community that has so strongly pursued this project. As the full levee reconstruction plan includes several federally funded projects, we strongly encourage you to limit today’s decision to this portion and make PLAs part of future levee improvement projects. Cooperation among all parties is essential for progress and, in spite of this decision; we are hopeful that the levee improvements will be able to move forward without delay.”

The project’s goal is to have the levees meet federal standards by 2015. A spokesman from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers St. Louis District, Mike Petersen, notes that the corps is not legally bound to pursue PLAs:

“The Corps’ job is to ensure the federal investment delivers the best value to the nation,” Petersen said.

“We reached out to a lot of different folks and did out due diligence. We want to be a partner in this and the federal law is pretty clear.”

Water levels along the Mississippi River have become a concern in Southern Illinois and Sen. Dick Durbin, currently the Assistant Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate, has been pushing legislation to help rebuild the area. Earlier this year, Durbin and Enyart, along with Republican Illinois congressman Rodney Davis, introduced legislation to protect jobs by improving Mississippi River management.  The legislation hopes to preempt extra weather’s rise while creating jobs for the region:

“We came close to economic catastrophe when ongoing drought conditions threatened to disrupt the movement of billions of dollars in goods along the Mississippi River.  Only through better than expected rainfall, the expedited removal of rock pinnacles at Congress’ request and some creative reservoir management was the river able to stay open,” said Durbin.  “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.  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 in Southern Illinois.”

The legislation is currently before committee waiting to be moved forward for a vote.


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