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State Legislature Unanimously Passes Illinois Waterway Ports Commission Act

May 25, 2023   The Waterways Journal

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n a story that went little noticed by media but was welcomed by port and waterways advocates, both houses of the Illinois Legislature recently unanimously passed the Illinois Waterway Ports Commission Act.


Robert A. Sinkler, water resources infrastructure director of the Heart of Illinois Regional Port District (TransPORT),  Corn Belt Ports executive coordinating director and a senior advisor at Dawson & Associates, said he expects Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker to sign the measure into law sometime this summer. When that happens, the act will take immediate effect. Sinkler is a former commander of the Rock Island Engineer District who has spearheaded efforts by terminals along the Upper Mississippi and Illinois rivers to organize themselves into port districts and become officially designated and recognized by the Corps of Engineers.


“We are all thrilled that the Illinois Waterway (ILWW) Ports Commission Act unanimously passed both the Illinois Senate and the House,” said Sinkler in an email. “Contrary to what we sometimes might see on some cable news channels, effective bipartisan leadership still exists in our democracy, and our elected officials do the right thing to serve the people of their state.” He said the act brings the 10-county Illinois Waterway Ports Commission (centered on Peoria and Ottawa) in line with the 11 Illinois counties in the Mid-America Port Commission area (centered on Quincy and Hannibal).


The act creates the Illinois Waterway Ports Commission and gives it jurisdiction over the following counties and port districts, several of them  created within the past few years: the Seneca Regional Port District, the Ottawa Port District, the Illinois Valley Regional Port District, the Heart of Illinois Regional Port District, the Havana Port District, and Fulton, Mason, Tazewell, Peoria, Woodford, Marshall, Putnam, Bureau, LaSalle and Grundy counties. It provides that the commission shall:


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(1) coordinate and synchronize common efforts and initiatives in the commission area to enhance the reporting and benefits of statistical data;

(2) make recommendations to the governor, the General Assembly, Congress and federal agencies on regional issues that impact multimodal transportation, economic development, environmental sustainability and climate resiliency of the commission area;

(3) coordinate and synchronize common efforts and initiatives on the larger Illinois Waterway with the Mid-America Port Commission and the Joliet Regional Port District;

(4) coordinate and synchronize federal activities associated with the nonfederal sponsorship of the M-55 Illinois-Gulf Marine Highway; and

(5) request and assist in requesting funding for the commission area and the surrounding areas, as the commission deems necessary.

Dan Silverthorn, the chair of the Heart of Illinois Regional Port District said, “We enjoy strong bipartisan leadership from our elected officials when it comes to our ports and waterways in Illinois.”

Illinois State Sen. David Koehler, lead sponsor for the legislation, said, “The Illinois Waterway Ports Act is something that everyone in the state can get behind. We all want to protect for future generations this important part of the global supply chain that is also a critical ecosystem.”