Lakes Carriers’ Association Is Elated at Official Commencement of Project That Has Stalled for More Than Three Decades
CLEVELAND — After more than three decades, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (“the Corps”) today said it will proceed with plans to build a new Soo Lock, one of the largest Great Lakes infrastructure projects in a generation.
The news came today in the form of an announcement that the Corps has formally allocated $32 million this fiscal year for design and construction of the project, which was first authorized in 1986 but stalled. The $32 million Corps money announced today could be combined with another $52 million committed by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder. The construction will take place in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan over the next 10 years and funded through additional annual appropriations.
“This is the moment we have been waiting for more than 30 years,” said Jim Weakley, President of Lake Carriers’ Association. “The announcement by the Army Corps’ that the construction program for the new lock at the Soo will officially begin is the direct result of the tireless efforts of so many people and organizations banding together to update one of the most critical pieces of American infrastructure. It is a great day for Michigan, the Great Lakes region, and the entire nation. We are elated.”
The funds will be used for design work and to resume construction that began in 2009 and quickly stalled. Construction projects slated to initiate the new lock work include deepening the upstream channel to accommodate modern Great Lakes’ vessels and construction of the upstream approach walls.
“Money added by Congress and the Corps over the last decade has been used for rehabilitation of the existing locks and for some preliminary construction for the new lock, but this is the first time the Corps has funded construction on its own,” Weakley said.
Construction of a new lock will provide resiliency to the existing Poe Lock, opened in 1969, which now carries over 90 percent of all cargoes. The Soo Locks are crucial to the American manufacturing supply chain.
“Combining the Michigan funds with the work plan money in 2019 can cut construction time by a year and save the American taxpayer $30 million on the overall cost of $922 million,” continued Weakley. “Governor Snyder’s focus combined with bipartisan support of the Great Lakes Congressional delegation, President Trump and his Administration have paved the way for this monumental move.”
“This announcement by the Corps’ is welcomed and timely as we approach the 50th year since the opening of the Poe Lock, critical to moving cargoes between Lake Superior and the lower Great Lakes,” said Mark Pietrocarlo, Board Chair of Lake Carriers’ Association. “The Locks are the backbone of American steel industry, power generation, construction, and essential for international trade with America’s heartland. This new lock provides resiliency and assurance that Great Lakes’ commercial maritime traffic will continue to support 237,000 jobs and drive $35 billion annually in economic activity.”
According to the 2018 study by Martin Associates on the economic impacts of vessel traffic moving through the existing locks, over 123,000 jobs are reliant on the locks which in turn supports $22.5 billion in economic activity. A Department of Homeland Security study determined that a six month outage of the Poe, one of two operational locks, would result in 11 million unemployed Americans.
About Lake Carriers’ Association:
Since 1880, Lake Carriers’ has represented the U.S.-flag Great Lakes fleet, which today can annually move more than 90 million tons of cargos that are the foundation of American industry, power, and construction: iron ore, limestone, coal, cement, and other dry bulk materials such as grain and sand. LCA members employ more than 1,600 men and women, and provide annual wages and benefits of approximately $125 million. In turn, the cargos its members carry create and sustain nearly 116,00 jobs in the eight Great Lakes states and generate more than $20 billion in economic activity, $8.3 billion in personal income, $16.4 billion in business revenue, $4.1 billion in local purchases and $3.7 billion in taxes. For more information contact Jim Weakley – (440) 333-9995 / firstname.lastname@example.org.