The spending bill passed by Congress and signed by President Trump in late December included very good news for a Great Lakes project long supported by the MTD and its affiliates.
The fiscal year 2020 package contained more than $75 million for the construction of a new larger lock within the Soo Locks system between Lake Superior and the rest of the Great Lakes.
Presently, only one of the three operational locks – the Poe Lock – can handle the longest thousand-footers that ply the Lakes. Maritime and business experts have conjectured for years that if the Poe Lock (built in 1968) ever became disabled for an extended time during the sailing season, it could lead to an economic disaster for that U.S.-Canadian area.
The Lake Carriers Association, which represents the U.S.-flag Great Lakes fleet, reported the Soo Locks is responsible for 87,000 American jobs, paying $6.4 billion in salaries and generating $17.4 billion in economic activity in the U.S.
Working with the new resources will be $52 million provided by the state of Michigan in 2018 as well as $32 million from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 2019 discretionary work funds.
Jim Weakley, president of the association, stated, “These funds will lay the groundwork for the next big step – the construction of the lock chamber. With continued efficient funding, the construction of the new lock could be complete in as little as seven years.”
Congress authorized construction of a new lock in 1986, but funding was never granted. In 2015, the Department of Homeland Security pointed out a 2007 Army Corps of Engineers study stating there was no need for a second Poe-sized lock contained flawed data.