July 16, 2003
$2 million approved to restore watershed -- House panel OKs
significantly more than original $652,000
of Copley News Service
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday approved $2 million to help restore the Illinois River watershed.
That is significantly more than the $652,000 President Bush included in his budget request to Congress in February.
The funding is contained in an energy and water projects spending bill for fiscal 2004, which begins Oct. 1. It passed the committee unanimously.
The bill also must be approved by the full House and Senate and be signed by President Bush to become final.
The Illinois River is a priority because of its "tremendous value to our economy, our recreation and our environment," said U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood, R-
Peoria, a member of the committee and who requested the funds.
Congress in 2000 authorized $100 million over three years for the Illinois River 2020 program. However, the money hasn't flowed as quickly as local officials had hoped. The state received just $1.45 million for the current fiscal year.
The House bill also includes $3.2 million for an ongoing study of a proposed lock and dam expansion on the Illinois and upper Mississippi Rivers that farmers and barge operators are strongly pushing.
However, the first economic analysis by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was criticized by two government agencies as biased in favor of construction.
In addition, the House bill includes $600,000 for the corps to begin engineering and design work on a plan to dredge the Illinois River and use the
sediment to build three islands in Peoria Lakes. That's more than the $350,000 Congress included for fiscal 2003 and the same amount the White House
requested. The goal is to reduce the sediment flow from upstream and to deepen the lake to improve fishing and recreational boating, LaHood
Other local projects that could receive funding under the House measure include: $1.5 million for flood control improvements in East Peoria;
$213,000 for the Farm Creek Reservoir in East Peoria; and $100,000 for an ongoing study aimed at controlling sediment and restoring harbor access at
Meanwhile, the full House late Monday approved $3 million for the continuing
renovation of Peoria's ag lab - officially known as the National
Center for Agricultural Utilization Research.
The agricultural spending bill also contains $600,000 for grants to Illinois farmers for conservation projects through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Environmental Quality Incentives Program and $100,000 for the "Trees Forever" program, which helps landowners replant trees along stream banks to avoid erosion and chemical runoff.
On Tuesday, a Senate appropriations subcommittee approved its agricultural funding bill that includes $3.6 million for research and development
work at the Biotechnology Research and Development Corp. in Peoria. The consortium of government, university and corporate partners pool their
grants for research into the biotech field.
The Senate bill also includes $750,000 for Illinois to fight West Nile virus. The funding would go to a consortium headed by the University of Illinois for equipment, surveillance and detection of the virus, said Sen. Dick Durbin,