Army Corps to begin construction of new Soo Lock

The following is text of a news release from the Lake Carriers' Association:

(CLEVELAND) — After more than three decades, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Wednesday said it will proceed with plans to build a new Soo Lock, one of the largest Great Lakes infrastructure projects in a generation.

The news came in the form of an announcement that the Corps has formally allocated $32 million this fiscal year for design and construction of the project, which was first authorized in 1986 but stalled. The $32 million in Corps money could be combined with another $52 million committed by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. The construction will take place in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., over the next 10 years and funded through additional annual appropriations.

“This is the moment we have been waiting for more than 30 years,” said Jim Weakley, president of Lake Carriers’ Association. “The announcement by the Army Corps that the construction program for the new lock at the Soo will officially begin is the direct result of the tireless efforts of so many people and organizations banding together to update one of the most critical pieces of American infrastructure. It is a great day for Michigan, the Great Lakes region, and the entire nation. We are elated.”

The funds will be used for design work and to resume construction that began in 2009 and quickly stalled. Construction projects slated to initiate the new lock work include deepening the upstream channel to accommodate modern Great Lakes’ vessels and construction of the upstream approach walls.

“Money added by Congress and the Corps over the last decade has been used for rehabilitation of the existing locks and for some preliminary construction for the new lock, but this is the first time the Corps has funded construction on its own,” Weakley said.

Construction of a new lock will provide resiliency to the existing Poe Lock, opened in 1969, which now carries over 90 percent of all cargoes. The Soo Locks are crucial to the American manufacturing supply chain.

“Combining the Michigan funds with the work plan money in 2019 can cut construction time by a year and save the American taxpayer $30 million on the overall cost of $922 million,” said Weakley. “Gov. Snyder’s focus combined with bipartisan support of the Great Lakes congressional delegation, President Trump and his administration have paved the way for this monumental move.”

“This announcement by the Corps’ is welcomed and timely as we approach the 50th year since the opening of the Poe Lock, critical to moving cargoes between Lake Superior and the lower Great Lakes,” said Mark Pietrocarlo, board chairman of Lake Carriers’ Association. “The locks are the backbone of American steel industry, power generation, construction, and essential for international trade with America’s heartland. This new lock provides resiliency and assurance that Great Lakes’ commercial maritime traffic will continue to support 237,000 jobs and drive $35 billion annually in economic activity.”

According to the 2018 study by Martin Associates on the economic impacts of vessel traffic moving through the existing locks, over 123,000 jobs are reliant on the locks which in turn supports $22.5 billion in economic activity. A Department of Homeland Security study determined that a six-month outage of the Poe, one of two operational locks, would result in 11 million unemployed Americans.

By Professional Mariner Staff