Army Corps Commits $479 Million To New Soo Lock – Enough To Finish It At Last
Detroit, MI – The most uncertain aspect of any federal project is the availability of funding to get it finished, but it appears the construction of a long-awaited new navigation lock at Sault Ste. Marie has, for now, crossed this final hurdle.
U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow’s office told the Free Press on Wednesday that the Army Corps of Engineers is committing $479 million from the $1.2-trillion infrastructure bill President Joe Biden won through negotiations last year with Congress to the project.
According to the Corps’ breakdown of costs for building the approximately $1.5-billion super-size lock on the Upper Peninsula, that should be about enough to finish the project by the end of the decade, barring cost-overruns.
The funding, Stabenow’s office said, is on top of about $480 million that was requested by the Biden administration for the project in this year’s budget and was included in the funding agreement the federal government is currently operating under.
The White House in a news release Wednesday morning said the investment in the Soo Locks as well as others across the country were intended to help ensure goods and materials get to markets and manufacturers, especially at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has made it harder to make and transport items on time. “Decades of neglect and underinvestment have strained… capacity and jeopardized supply chains,” the White House said.
At the height of construction, the new Soo Lock — which will help move the largest vessels between Lake Superior and the St Marys River leading to Lake Michigan and Lake Huron and the lower Great Lakes — is expected to employ about 1,200 people.
In addition to the employment numbers, however, is the importance of the Soo Locks to the nation’s economy. Currently, only one of the locks, the 53-year-old Poe Lock, is large enough to accommodate the 1,000-foot vessels that move the bulk of cargo, including iron ore pellets needed for manufacturing, across the Great Lakes.
For decades, members of Michigan’s congressional delegation, including Stabenow, have been fighting for construction of a second super-sized lock, with government reports indicating an extended breakdown at the Poe Lock could cause a huge shockwave through the U.S. economy.
In 2018, after urging by then-President Donald Trump, the project finally began to move forward, with funding being authorized for the early stages of construction. In November of last year, the head of the Army Corps of Engineers’ Detroit District, Lt. Col. Scott Katalenich, said the project was on schedule with work around the lock and its design underway. A contract to build the new lock, he said, could be awarded by February.
But funding, especially for projects that can take more than a decade to complete, is often a question mark since Congress is usually called on to make multiple appropriations through the years and the Army Corps doles that out across many projects underway nationally.
Passage of the infrastructure bill — which should be worth upwards of $10 billion to Michigan in road and bridge funding, mass transit investments, broadband Internet and more — guaranteed some $12 billion in funding to the Army Corps nationwide