As reported earlier by SooToday, two U.S. Congress members and high ranking U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officers, on a visit from Washington, D.C., toured the Soo Locks in August and provided Sault, Mich. officials with an update on the long-awaited, much-needed $1 billion Locks expansion.
$75.3 million is needed as the next step to continue with the long-delayed Locks expansion.
“Last Thursday (Sept. 12), the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee passed legislation funding the Army Corps of Engineers for the 2020 federal budget year,” stated a news release from Rep. John Moolenaar, a Republican Congressman for Michigan’s Fourth Congressional District, a member of the House Appropriations Committee.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operates the Soo Locks.
"With both chambers of Congress putting the same amount of funding ($75.3 million) for Soo Locks construction in their respective bills, there is now clear bipartisan support for the Soo Locks request made by President Trump in March," Moolenaar's release stated.
"This follows the work that was already done by the House Appropriations Committee in May when it passed the exact same amount of funding for Soo Locks construction."
Moolenaar accompanied Rep. Marcy Kaptur, Democratic Congresswoman for Ohio’s Ninth Congressional District and House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development chair, along with Lt. General Todd Semonite, commanding general of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, on last month’s visit to the Locks.
“(With Senate approval) we can move forward and send the bill to the President for signature by October,” Kaptur told SooToday, hoping the Senate would come through with approval for the House of Representatives work, during her visit to the Locks.
"This would be the first time in decades that construction of a new lock at the Soo has received funding appropriated by Congress," Moolenaar's office wrote.
While $75.3 million seems like a small amount in view of the Lock expansion’s $1 billion price tag, this marks the first time in decades that construction of a new lock at the Soo Locks has received funding appropriated by Congress. Construction of a new lock was first authorized in 1986, and again in 2007, but leaders in Washington then were unable to get funding for the construction.
Currently, the largest freighters can only come through the Poe Lock (first built in the 19th century, rebuilt in 1968).
The MacArthur Lock can accommodate smaller vessels, while the Sabin Lock remains closed, the Davis Lock decommissioned.
“The whole point is to build a second lock. If we can’t get that second lock done, and if there ever was a failure (with the Poe Lock), the ramifications for jobs, for steel mills, in unemployment, would be significant. This could be a crisis for the nation,” Semonite told a roundtable at the Soo Locks in August.
The new lock would be 1,200 feet long, 110 feet wide and 32 feet deep.
Prior to 2018, funding for the renovation of the Poe Lock and construction of the new lock project received $32 million for design and planning and downstream channel deepening, with a further $69 million in 2019 (a mix of federal and state government funding).
If $75 million goes toward the project, it is hoped by planners a further $173 million will be approved in 2021, $129 million in 2022.
$536 million would be needed from 2023 to 2028 to complete the new lock construction.
“I have worked across the aisle in Congress to move this funding forward and I am glad the Senate Appropriations Committee has followed the work my House colleagues and I did in May. With the House and Senate now in agreement, there is clear bipartisan support for getting this done and we have seen historic progress in the last year and a half after President Trump pledged his support. This is a major infrastructure project that is crucial to manufacturing across the nation and I will continue working in Congress to get this funding across the finish line,” Moolenaar stated in his office’s news release.