Both Michigan political parties agree on Soo Locks expansion
MACKINAC ISLAND — A day before they visit the Soo Locks at Sault Ste. Marie, most of Michigan’s congressional delegation rallied for improvements and expansion of the Locks, which carry 80 million tons of cargo through the Great Lakes every year.
“The locks are absolutely critical to Michigan and to our country’s economy,” said U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-East Lansing. “There has been no comprehensive improvements in the locks for 50 years and we’re very worried that we’re on borrowed time.”
Every year, 8,000 freighters carry 80 million tons of cargo through the locks. The first State Lock was built in 1855. The four Locks operated by the United States Army Corp of Engineers — the Davis, Sabin, MacArthur, and Poe locks — continue to provide the connection between Lakes Superior and Huron. Currently, all ships utilize the larger Poe (1,200 feet) and MacArthur (800 feet) locks.
Bills will be introduced in both the U.S. House and Senate next week to authorize the necessary spending to create another Poe lock. The Army Corp of Engineers still needs to do a study on the project, but Stabenow said the estimated cost for the project is nearly $1 billion.
“In 2015, the MacArthur lock was shut down for 20 days while crews performed repairs,” Stabenow said. “It delayed delivery of nearly 2 million tons of cargo. A six-month closure would completely stop North American auto production for 10 months and it would be estimated that unemployment would hit 20%.”
The project is so important that it has gained bipartisan support across the delegation.
U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph added the project should be a top priority in the upcoming infrastructure bill.
“We’re going to do an infrastructure bill this year and there’s bipartisan support for that. It’s the governor’s first priority and it’s our first priority,” he said.
U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, added. I hope the message you’re taking from this is that we’re united in a bipartisan way. Thisn’t an michigan issue, it’s not a Great Lakes issue, it’s an American issue and we need to make sure.we protect the Great Lakes, Soo Locks and economic development in this country.
Snyder and several members of the congressional delegation are schedule to tour the Locks on Friday afternoon.