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Michigan Governor Rick Snyder is joining the bipartisan chorus calling for action to upgrade the Soo Locks between Lake Superior and the rest of the Great Lakes before a catastrophe occurs.

Already making the case for a new lock that could handle vessels up to 1,000 feet in length are Republican and Democratic members of Congress from throughout the Great Lakes area. In addition, the MTD is a member of the Seaway Task Force composed of maritime unions and vessel operators who support upgrading the Soo Locks.

In a statement released the second week of May, Synder emphasizes how a closure of the Poe Lock – the only one in the Soo Locks system capable of handling the largest vessels plying the Lakes – could destabilize the U.S. economy. He notes, “The Poe Lock is in need of major upgrades due to ongoing maintenance, redundancy and capacity issues. If an unexpected closure were to occur, the production of industrial metals and other important commodities would cease, sending the Great Lakes region and the nation into recession with international ramifications.”

In his statement, the Republican governor cites Department of Homeland Security research that points out a 30-day closure of the Poe Lock would have a negative “$160 million economic impact.” Additionally, the department’s study notes, “75 percent of the U.S. steel production would end within two weeks of a closure of the Soo Locks,” which would lead to a shutdown of North American automobile production.

A closure of six months or more could lead to a loss of 11 million jobs nationwide with Great Lakes region unemployment levels reaching the 20 percent level, according to the study.

As others have done, Snyder points out that Congress authorized a second Poe Lock-sized facility more than 30 years ago, but never appropriated the money to build it. Two years ago, the Army Corps of Engineers (which oversees the Soo Locks) and the Office of Management and Budget approved funding for a study for a second lock that could handle the 1,000-footers. The Poe Lock was rebuilt in 1968 in order to move the larger vessels that had started sailing on the Lakes.

The Soo Locks are located in Sault Ste. Marie, on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

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