Efficient Funding for the Second Poe-Sized Lock at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan
A resilient Great Lakes navigation system with sufficient and efficient federal funding for the second Poe-sized lock at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.
The navigational locks at the Soo connect Lake Superior to the lower four Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence Seaway, and international markets. Eighty million tons of cargo, valued at $6 billion and supporting 123,000 jobs, transit the Soo Locks each year. The locks allow cargoes like iron ore and grain to move from mines and farms to customers in the U.S., Canada, and overseas as well as allowing domestic and overseas cargoes to move “up the system” and into upper Midwest markets.
Eighty-eight percent of all cargoes transiting the Soo are dimensionally restricted to the one large lock, the Poe. The 76-year-old MacArthur, has lost its capability to serve as a functional backup to the Poe.
The economic impacts of the Poe Lock are national, binational, and international. The Department of Homeland Security estimated that a 6-month shutdown of the Poe, a very real possibility for the 50-year-old lock, would result in 11 million Americans unemployed from Maine to California and a $1.1 trillion hit to the U.S. economy.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers determined a new lock of the same dimensions as the Poe providing system resiliency is economically critical to the nation. Construction has commenced with upstream channel deepening completed and the rehabilitation of the upstream approach walls nearing completion in 2024. The construction of the lock chamber has begun, but with increased costs due to changing market conditions and inflation, not all work is included for a fully functional lock. The project was originally authorized by Congress at $1.1 billion, now the cost is $3.2 billion.
Efficiently funding the construction of the new lock is critical to Great Lakes commercial maritime transportation whose cargoes supply the industrial base of America that supports everything from the manufacturing of cars to washing machines, energy production, and America’s infrastructure.
Failure to fund contract options for the new lock will result in higher costs and construction delays. Congress should appropriate the maximum amount of funds that the Corps can absorb each year, efficient funding, to optimize the construction timeline thereby completing the new lock by 2030.