Congress enacts water resource legislation

The U.S. Senate on October 10 approved S. 3021, America’s Water Infrastructure Act (AWIA). The legislation includes authorization of key water resource policies and programs.

Of greatest interest to Great Lakes ports, AWIA modifies the project authorization for construction of a new large lock at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.

The lock complex at Sault Ste. Marie is critical infrastructure enabling ships to navigate the St. Marys River, which connects Lake Superior with the lower four Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway. Unfortunately, the existing lock infrastructure is old and in need of repair and replacement. The two operating locks at Sault Ste. Marie were constructed in 1948 and 1968.

The Soo Lock authorization required updating subsequent to the June 29 release of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Economic Validation Study and Post Authorization Change Request. These documents confirm that the project will have a positive economic benefit. Further, they updated the project cost estimate. Congress first authorized a new large lock at the Soo in 1986 at a cost of $227.4 million. In 2007 Congress updated the authorized project cost to $341.7 million. The AWIA legislation updates the authorized project cost to $922.4 million.

Many thanks go to Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) for working to include the Soo Lock authorization language in AWIA.

The legislation was approved by the House of Representatives September 13 and is expected to be signed into law by the President in coming days.

Maritime Editorial