Above: Bulk vessel transiting the Soo Lock.
The House Appropriations Committee has approved $123 million for construction of the Soo Lock. This would be the largest single year amount received so far in a fiscal year for one of the largest infrastructure projects ever in the Great Lakes region. The Lake Carriers’ Association applauds the House Committee for the approval of the “Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2021.”
The legislation includes more than $123 million to support the ongoing construction of the new deep-water navigational lock in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. The lock project has a very good chance of competing for additional funding as well with the Committee adding $59.2 million for construction of “locks not on the inland waterways system.” This funding is crucial for the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to maintain construction timelines with the goal of completing the new lock project possibly within as few as seven years.
The current 62-year-old deep-water Poe Lock, the only one large enough to handle 1,000-foot US-flag ships, has experienced numerous outages over the past years as ageing components have begun to fail. The Poe Lock is a single point of failure for the entire Great Lakes maritime system as well as a large portion of American manufacturing, and construction. It is a critical infrastructure link connecting Lake Superior to the rest of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway.
The new ‘super lock’ (fitted with new hands-free mooring technology), under construction, will ensure redundancy and insure against a national economic disaster should the Poe fail. The key link in the supply chain will be significantly fortified through the addition of a second large lock capable of accommodating the largest Great Lakes bulk carriers, ensuring a smoother, more efficient flow of maritime cargoes. Dredging began in May.
“It’s difficult to overstate just how vital the Soo Locks at Sault Ste. Marie are to the Great Lakes region, our people, and our economies,” said Rep. Kaptur, Chairwoman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development. “As a life-long resident of Toledo, home to one the busiest commercial ports in the Great Lakes, our city — like many Ohio cities along Lake Erie — rely heavily on commercial shipping. Our cities receive goods like iron ore, which pass through the Soo Locks on their way from ports on Lake Superior, and which is then used by northern Ohio workers to forge the best iron and steel in the world. As Chairwoman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, investing in the Soo Locks has been among my highest priorities, I’m glad to have secured this critically needed funding.”
“We praise Chairwoman Kaptur and the entire House Committee on Appropriations for their continued support of the new lock in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. Efficiently funding the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers so the project can remain on track is crucial to the overall health of the Great Lakes Navigation System,” stated Lake Carriers’ Association President, Jim Weakley.
In addition to the lock funding, the bill provides an additional $17 billion in emergency funding to accelerate work on Army Corps projects around the county, putting Americans back to work and improving water infrastructure while reducing the current backlog.
About Lake Carriers’ Association
Since 1880, Lake Carriers’ has represented the US-flag Great Lakes fleet, which today can move more than 90 million tonnes of cargoes annually that are the foundation of American industry, infrastructure, and power: iron ore, stone, coal, cement, and other dry bulk materials such as grain, salt, and sand.