Construction of new Poe-sized lock reaches milestone

President Donald Trump signed the America’s Water Infrastructure Act into law October 23. As a result, the new Soo Lock project in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan is in a position to compete for funding. The project was previously authorized for 100 percent federal funding and will be considered for appropriations in the next budget cycle.

“A second Poe-sized lock was authorized in 1986 but has languished under several administrations,” said James Weakley, President of Lake Carriers’ Association. “It was President Trump who made this a national priority.”

The new law authorizes lock construction at the current cost estimate of $922.4 million, which was updated as part of the New Soo Lock Economic Validation Study completed in June by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District.

“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District, understands the significance of this critical project,” said Lt. Col. Greg Turner, District Engineer. “We stand ready to execute the new Soo Lock construction and have already begun taking steps to minimize the time from receipt of funding to project completion.”

The Soo Locks are situated on the St. Marys River and allow vessels to transit the 21-foot elevation change at the St. Marys Falls. This project involves constructing a second Poe-sized lock—110 feet by 1,200 feet—where the Davis and Sabin locks are located.

In a typical year, as much as 80 million tons of cargo pass through the Soo Locks. Iron ore for steel production is the single largest commodity, but the locks also handle significant volumes of coal, grain and limestone. Approximately 90 percent of that cargo transits the Poe Lock. The other lock, the MacArthur, is too small to accommodate the largest, most efficient ships working the Lakes.

“We are fortunate to have a very supportive bipartisan congressional delegation across the Great Lakes advocating for this project,” said Tom Dower, Senior Director, Government Relations for ArcelorMittal Americas. “The State of Michigan recently pledged over $50 million to spur this federal project and launched a website for public input. Congress recently approved legislation authorizing up to $922.4 million to construct the new lock, and the president has spoken to the importance of the Soo Locks project. It is now up to the federal government to appropriately prioritize this project in the president’s upcoming budget and subsequent funding bills in Congress.

Maritime Editorial