Opinion: Soo Locks work moves forward
Recently, President Donald Trump signed into law the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, a bipartisan bill that funds America’s water resources and infrastructure.
Of high importance to Michiganians, this legislation authorizes the construction of a second, 1,200-foot lock at the Soo Locks. The only water connection between Lake Superior and the other Great Lakes, the Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie are a critical point for manufacturing in our nation.
One of the biggest industries utilizing materials shipped through the Soo Locks is steel manufacturing. According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 10 out of 11 integrated steel mills in the Great Lakes Region rely on iron ore that passes through the Soo Locks and 89 percent of the tonnage transiting through the complex travels through the 50-year-old Poe Lock, which has no backup. While we commend those men and women who have kept the current Poe Lock operational and protected U.S. manufacturers for the past half-century, it is critical we reduce the risk associated with this single point of failure.
The Department of Homeland Security has estimated if the Poe Lock were to cease operation, the disruption would cause an almost complete shutdown of Great Lakes steel production, leading to massive interruptions in manufacturing, and costing nearly 11 million Americans their jobs.
Movement to fix the locks has accelerated tremendously since our ride along with President Donald Trump to his rally in Washington Township in April, where we pitched the project and he subsequently declared to the crowd, “The Soo Locks are going to hell. …You know that, right? And we’re going to get them fixed up.”
In May, we led a bipartisan letter with more than 50 signatures to President Trump, urging his continued commitment to rebuild and improve the Soo Locks. This was followed shortly after by the inclusion of language in the National Defense Authorization Act officially recognizing, for the first time, that any failure at the Soo Locks would have a drastic impact on national security, and urging the Army Corps of Engineers and all involved federal agencies, to expedite necessary reviews, analysis and approvals in order to speed-up the construction of a second 1,200-foot lock at the Soo Locks.
In June, in part due to our persistence, the Army Corps of Engineers released a recalculated benefit-cost analysis for the Soo Locks project showing it was necessary. This was the required next step in allowing the project to be included in the most recent Water Resources Development Act, a section of the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018. This is what President Trump signed into law this week, and with that action, our nation has officially authorized the Soo Locks upgrade project. The next step we will take is appropriating the funding for the project; allowing design and construction to finally start.
Through our work this Congress, and a meeting with President Trump directly, the Soo Locks are finally on a viable route to receiving the new construction they need. We will continue to do everything and anything we can in Congress to get this project built and protect our districts, Michigan and our nation from economic risk.
Paul Mitchell, John Moolenaar, and Jack Bergman represent Michigan in the U.S. House of Representatives.