TOLEDO, OH —The efficiency and reliability of Great Lakes shipping took a giant step forward on November 8 when Congress authorized construction of a second Poe-sized Lock at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, at full Federal expense. The lock, included in the recently-passed Water Resources Development Act of 2007, will ensure that vital cargos will continue to move uninterrupted on the Great Lakes.
"A second Poe-sized Lock to connect Lake Superior to the lower four Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway has been one of the greatest needs on the Lakes for decades," said John D. Baker, President of Great Lakes Maritime Task Force (GLMTF), the largest coalition of shipping interests on the Great Lakes. "If there had been a lengthy failure of the Poe Lock, the iron ore, coal, and export grain trades on the Great Lakes would have slowed to a trickle and threatened the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of American workers."
Baker, who is also President of the ILA's Great Lakes District Council, noted the second Poe-sized Lock was first authorized in 1986, but was stalled by a requirement that a local sponsor fund a portion of the project. "By authorizing full Federal funding, Congress has recognized that a second Poe-sized Lock is an infrastructure improvement that benefits not just the Great Lakes region, but the entire nation."
The locks at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, typically handle more than 80 million tons of cargo a year. Iron ore for steel production, coal for power generation, and grain for export overseas, are the primary cargos that transit the locks.
Patrick J. O'Hern, 1st Vice President of GLMTF, and Vice President — Contact Services for Bay Shipbuilding Company, thanked the Great Lakes delegation in Washington for their support for the lock and other Lakes-related provisions in the bill. "Our Representatives and Senators understand that Great Lakes shipping is one of the foundations of the U.S. economy and national defense capabilities, and that this lock is key to the continued reliability of waterborne commerce on the Lakes."
Daniel L. Smith, 2nd Vice President of GLMTF and National Executive Vice President of American Maritime Officers, noted that Congressman James L. Oberstar (D-MN) played a leading role in winning full Federal funding for the lock. "Congressman Oberstar has tirelessly championed the lock over the years," said Smith. "He never despaired, but just kept on fighting for this vital infrastructure improvement."
Authorization is the first step in building the second Poe-sized Lock, a project that could take 10 years to complete. Congress must next appropriate the $341 million needed to construct the lock.
The Lakes will benefit from the Water Resources Development Act in other ways. "The bill directs the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to accelerate its dredging program on the Great Lakes," said James H.I. Weakley, 3rd Vice President of GLMTF and President of Lake Carriers' Association. "Decades of inadequate funding for dredging have forced vessels to leave millions of tons of cargo behind each year. Restoring the Great Lakes Navigation System to project dimensions will finally allow Great Lakes shipping to achieve the efficiencies for which it was designed. We thank Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) for his efforts to include this landmark provision in the Water Resources Development Act."
Great Lakes Maritime Task Force was founded in Toledo, Ohio, in 1992 to promote domestic and international shipping on the Great Lakes. With 73 members, it is the largest coalition to ever speak for the Great Lakes shipping community and draws its membership from both labor and management representing U.S.-Flag vessel operators, shipboard and longshore unions, port authorities, cargo shippers, terminal operators, shipyards and other Great Lakes interests. Its goals include restoring adequate funding for dredging of Great Lakes deep-draft ports and waterways; protecting the nation's maritime cabotage laws; maximizing the Lakes overseas trade; and opposing exports and increased diversions of Great Lakes water.
Glen G. Nekvasil
Secretary, Great Lakes Maritime Task Force