House panel approves $75M for Soo Locks construction

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News
The Canadian cutter Samuel Risley ties up in the Poe Lock in Sault Ste. Marie in this Wednesday, March 21, 2018 file photo.

Washington — The House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday approved in a 31-21 vote a spending bill containing $75.3 million toward building a replacement Soo Lock. 

The $75 million in construction funding was included for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in an energy and water bill at the same level as requested in President Donald Trump's budget proposal in March.

“This is the first time in decades that construction of a new lock has been funded in legislation," said Rep. John Moolenaar, R-Midland, who sits on the committee and voted in favor of the bill. 

"This funding is the next step in building the lock, which helps shipping on the Great Lakes and creates jobs.”  

A replacement lock in Sault Ste. Marie was first authorized by Congress in 1986 but stalled for decades.

Trump took up the issue during an April 2018 trip to Michigan, where he was lobbied by three Michigan GOP House members, including Moolenaar.

The shipping lock complex on the St. Mary's River in the Upper Peninsula connects Lake Superior to the lower Great Lakes.

Plans call for a new 1,200-foot-long lock to mirror the 49-year-old Poe lock, which is the only one of the four shipping locks that can handle the largest freighters carrying 89 percent of the cargo through the corridor. 

A new lock would provide redundancy, so cargo could keep moving in the case of an unexpected outage of the Poe.

The replacement lock project began to move forward last year after the Army Corps released an economic analysis that allowed the new lock to finally compete for construction funding.