LANSING — State Rep. John Kivela (D-Marquette) introduced a House Resolution this week supporting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ request for funding for a study crucial to moving forward on construction of a second large lock at the Soo Locks at Sault Ste. Marie.
“Only one of the four current Soo Locks is large enough to accommodate the modern vessels that commonly traverse the Great Lakes, and this puts the U.P and Michigan economy at a disadvantage,” said Kivela. “If something happens to that largest lock — the Poe Lock — then ships and their cargo will be stranded. We need to let the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers get to work sooner rather than later.”
About 10,000 Great Lakes vessels, carrying 80 million tons of iron ore, coal, grain and other cargo, travel through the locks every year. Much of the domestic iron ore, the primary material used to manufacture steel, travels from mines in Minnesota and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula through the Soo Locks. Most of this travels on ships that can only travel through the Poe Lock. The remainder of the cargo goes through the smaller MacArthur Lock. The smallest locks, the 100-year old Davis and Sabin locks, are rarely used. It is estimated that a 30-day outage would result in economic losses of $160 million.
“Relying on one lock poses a serious risk to national security as well as the economy,” said Kivela. “The Soo Locks are pathways to markets throughout the northern Midwest states, so we need to take good care of them. I look forward to the support of my colleagues as we encourage the federal government to move forward on plans for upgrading the Soo Locks.”
“Cliffs Natural Resources commends Rep. Kivela for his sponsorship of this resolution calling for additional federal investment in the Soo Locks,” said Lourenco Goncalves, chairman, president and CEO of Cliffs Natural Resources. “The Soo Locks are the critical piece of infrastructure that allows the domestic iron ore industry, including Cliffs’ Tilden Mine in Marquette County, to maintain its competitiveness by transporting materials through the Great Lakes Navigation System. Investment in a second Poe-sized lock is needed to ensure the continued viability of our domestic iron ore and steel industries and to support the millions of manufacturing jobs these industries sustain.”