Army Corps' 2020 budget includes Soo Lock construction funds

The following is text of a news release from the American Great Lakes Ports Association (AGLPA):

(WASHINGTON) — For the first time, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has purposefully budgeted funds to construct a new large lock at Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. The agency's fiscal year 2020 budget, which was released in detail Tuesday, includes $75.33 million for second-year construction work.

The announcement is significant in that the agency appears to have prioritized the project for scarce navigation construction funds. The next step is for Congress to hold hearings on the Corps' FY 2020 budget proposal and then develop appropriations legislation to enact these amounts into law. In past years, Congress has typically approved those projects included in the original Corps budget. This is one reason that Tuesday's announcement is significant.

While the agency did not budget for the project last year, Congress "pumped up" the Corps' overall budget, and $32.38 million of those extra funds were ultimately assigned to the project to begin first-year construction. Additionally, the state of Michigan has provided $52 million to the project. These state dollars have been combined with the initial slug of federal dollars to fully fund the first year of construction.

Agency officials have indicated that second-year construction will require $84.1 million in FY 2020. Congress might provide additional funds to the project to fully fund second-year construction, or the Corps has the option of deploying remaining contributions from the state of Michigan.

The authorized project cost is $922 million with an expected construction timeline of 10 years. As both the Corps and the Congress continue to fund the project on schedule, costs are expected to remain within estimates. Should future funding not be forthcoming, the overall project cost can skyrocket due to delays and inflation. This has happened on other large Corps construction projects such as the Olmsted Lock and Dam on the Ohio River.

By Professional Mariner Staff