Stabenow, Bergman and Michigan Delegation members introduce bipartisan Soo Locks Modernization Act

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Representative Jack Bergman, U.S. Senator Gary Peters and Representatives Sandy Levin, Fred Upton, Bill Huizenga, Tim Walberg, Dan Kildee, Mike Bishop, Debbie Dingell, Brenda Lawrence, John Moolenaar, Dave Trott and Paul Mitchell introduced the bipartisan Soo Locks Modernization Act June 8. The legislation authorizes the necessary level of funding to construct another Poe-sized lock. Introduction of this legislation comes just days after seven members of Michigan’s congressional delegation and Governor Snyder toured the Soo Locks, which are critical to both our state’s and our country’s economy and national security.

The Soo Locks facility is comprised of four parallel locks—the Poe, the MacArthur, the Sabin and the Davis. Today, only the Poe and MacArthur Locks are operational. Only the Poe Lock is large enough to handle 70 percent of the cargo that passes through the Locks. There have been no comprehensive improvements to the Soo Locks facility in nearly 50 years. Approximately 80 million tons of iron ore, coal, stone, grain and other commercial commodities pass through the locks annually.

“We are on borrowed time until something happens that shuts down the Poe Lock,” said Senator Stabenow. “Just last week, our delegation toured the Soo Locks and saw pumps that were 100 years old and a lock built back in World War II. Our whole delegation is working together to secure funding to build a replacement lock. We must ensure this vital gateway for commerce and jobs stays open.”

“The First District is the proud home of one of the most important drivers of industry, jobs, and the economy in our country: the Soo Locks,” Rep. Jack Bergman said. “That said, we’ve reached the point where modernization is absolutely critical to prevent unscheduled interruptions in operation and nationwide economic disaster. Right now, we have the leadership we need at every level to push forward and get this project funded. That’s what this legislation is all about—investing in Michigan’s future—and I’m proud to be joined by a bipartisan majority of the Michigan delegation in introducing it.”

“The Soo Locks have been called the Achilles’ heel of our American manufacturing industry, and even a short unplanned outage at the Poe Lock would seriously impact Michigan’s manufacturers and our national economy,” said Senator Peters. “I’m proud to join my colleagues to introduce bipartisan legislation that will authorize much-needed upgrades to the aging Soo Locks and ensure American manufacturers can continue to operate without the looming threat of a potential failure or shutdown.”

In 2015, the MacArthur Lock experienced a scheduled outage when a faulty gate mechanism forced a rare mid-shipping season shutdown that closed the lock for 20 days while crews performed repairs. The closure of the MacArthur Lock forced all traffic to transit the Poe and delayed the delivery of 1.9 million tons of cargo.

A report by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Cyber and Infrastructure Analysis concluded it was “hard to conceive” of a single piece of infrastructure more consequential than the Lock in terms of impact to the economy from an unexpected and sustained breakdown. A six-month closure of the Poe Lock would bring steel production and manufacturing industries to an effective halt. It also could cause Michigan’s unemployment rate to hit 20 percent.

Maritime Editorial