Gov. Rick Snyder has requested that the federal government fully fund reconstruction of portions of the Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie.
The locks, which opened in March for the 2016 shipping season, are a vital link in the movement of raw materials between Lake Superior and the lower Great Lakes. They are among 16 locks that form the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway navigation system.
“The Soo Locks are a crucial shipping link for some of our nation’s biggest industries,” Snyder says. “The increase in outages from maintenance, redundancy, and capacity issues poses significant economic consequences for both Michigan and the nation.”
In a letter sent to Michigan’s members of Congress, the governor asked that the federal government approve funds to replace the Davis and Sabin Locks with a larger, single lock. The effort would make waterway traffic and shipping more reliable, he says.
Construction of the new lock, which was authorized by Congress 30 years ago, could generate up to 15,000 construction jobs in the eastern Upper Peninsula, he says.
“As we continue to address infrastructure needs across the state, the Soo Locks must be a priority,” Snyder says. “Only by mitigating these risks now can we ensure future public safety and economic stability.”
According to the letter, a 2015 analysis by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security found an unexpected closure of the Soo Locks, especially if it coincides with the peak-shipping season, could result in a collapse of the U.S. economy, as three percent of U.S. GDP is reliant on the iron ore moving through the locks.
The report also estimates that significant disruptions to the production and shipping of steel would cause the production of North American appliances, automobiles, railcars, and construction, farm, and mining equipment to cease within weeks.