Michigan politicians discuss future of Soo Locks

SAULT STE. MARIE — The future of the Soo Locks was discussed Friday during a tour of the facility by Governor Rick Snyder and some of Michigan’s representatives in Washington.

Even with today’s advancements in technology and travel, the shipping industry still depends on large boats to move things across large bodies of water. Nearly 7,000 vessels carrying 86 million tons of cargo pass through the Soo Locks every year, making the facility a very vital part of the economy.

“This is about our national economy,” said Gov. Rick Snyder. “We all know we need to invest in infrastructure, but we need to decide the priority.”

Gov. Rick Snyder was among the delegates who toured the Soo Locks Friday. Michigan politicians in Lansing and Washington D.C. have expressed their support to build a new lock.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for us as a country to succeed,” said Rep. Jack Bergman. “It’s not as democrats or republicans, but us a country.”

“When you go through it, you realize how things are getting done and the structure is very old,” said Sen. Gary Peters. “We saw pumps that are used that were from 100 years ago.”

A new lock is expected to cost 600 million to a billion dollars. That money would come from the Federal Government, which authorized the construction of a new lock back in 1986, but nothing was ever built.

“This has been talked about for a very long time at various levels, but never had the synergy of everybody coming together to do it,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow.

“We have a chance here in the Eastern U.P. to become more proficient when it comes to building, designing, operating and maintaining locks,” added Rep. Bergman.

The new lock would take 8-10 years to construct. It would be built where the Davis and Saban Locks currently are. The new lock would give take the pressure off the Poe Lock, which was built in 1968. If it were to fail or breakdown, the economic consequences could be disastrous. A Homeland Security Report last year stated a six-month shutdown of that lock could plunge the U.S. economy into a recession and result in the loss to 11 million jobs.

“We need a new lock. The economy of Michigan and the nation is really dependent on an operation that works. And at some point this is going to not work,” said Rep. Fred Upton of St. Joseph, Mich.

The Soo Locks is the only way for certain sized vessels to venture between Lake Superior and Lake Huron. It’s how nearly 90% of all iron ore is transported. Bipartisan legislation in support of a new lock will be introduced in both the U.S. House and Senate next week.