Lawmakers Tour Soo Locks After Unveiling Legislation Promoting Building a New Lock

It’s been talked about since the 1980s, but now more than ever lawmakers are pushing to build another super lock in Sault Ste. Marie.

With a lot of talk, but not much action, it’s left many in Northern Michigan wondering if the project will finally move forward.    

In 1986 a new lock was authorized on the site of the unused Sabin and Davis Locks. 

Some funds were finally appropriated in 2009 for prep work which included dredging the locks.

A flawed U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study that falsely said there were other ways for goods to be transported if the locks were to go down brought the project to a halt.  

"We want to speed this along. We don’t need yet another study. We want the money invested in building a new lock. So, that’s step number one," Congressman Fred Upton said.

Money was appropriated for the Army Corps to do a new benefit-cost study they are in the process of completing.

Thursday, lawmakers unveiled the new Soo Locks Modernization Act they plan to introduce to put them one step ahead when the study is done.

Friday, they toured the locks.

9 & 10’s Blayke Roznowski and photojournalist Noah Jurik visited the locks speaking to lawmakers about the aging infrastructure.

Michigan lawmakers took a tour of the aging Poe Lock as well as the other locks in Sault Ste. Marie, stressing now more than ever how critical it is to move forward with a project to build a new lock.

"If this lock went down, this is critical to the national economy, to all of us," Governor Rick Snyder said. "We’re talking potentially millions of jobs at risk. We need a second lock."

The estimated $1 billion project would build a new super lock that could handle thousand foot freighters carrying 75% of the iron ore that only the Poe can handle. 

"We are the lifeblood of the auto industry, so to have the risk eliminated would be good for all of us in Michigan," Snyder said. "It’s about more economic opportunity and at a lower risk." 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says having the governor, Michigan’s senators and several members of congress all come out for their biggest tour shows this project is a priority.

"I think what everybody wants is a reliable lock system connecting Lake Superior to the lower lakes," Detroit District Corps of Engineers commander Lt. Col. Dennis Sugrue said. "I think also in the last 50 years, maybe people took for granted the infrastructure that exists here and delivers that connection." 

They’re committed to finishing the new study needed to move forward.

"This is my top priority," Lt. Col. Sugrue said. 

The benefit-cost analysis study will be the last piece in the puzzle to determine if the new lock project can go forward.