Ohio House of Representatives’ Support for Second Poe-Sized Lock Yet Another Sign Momentum behind Project Continues to Build

TOLEDO, OH – The Ohio House of Representatives has passed a resolution that urges the President of the United States, Congress, and the U.S. Office of Management and Budget to support plans for upgrading the locks at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, that connect Lake Superior to the Lower Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway.  House Resolution 263 was sponsored by Rep. Mike Dovilla (R-7), cosponsored by 43 bipartisan members and passed 93-0.

Iron ore for the steel industry is the primary cargo moving through the locks.  Other cargos include clean-burning western coal, limestone and grain.  Total commerce through the locks can top 80 million tons in a given year.

However, as H.R. No. 263 stresses, “only one of the four Soo Locks, the Poe Lock, is large enough to accommodate the modern vessels that commonly traverse the Great Lakes.”  If there was a lengthy failure of the Poe Lock, 70 percent of U.S.-flag carrying capacity would be effectively idled and Ohio steel mills and those in Indiana, Michigan and Pennsylvania would soon face shortages of iron ore.  The Department of Homeland Security estimates Ohio’s unemployment rate could reach 17.2 percent, 60 percent higher than the 2008-2009 Great Recession if the Poe Lock failed, and nearly 11 million unemployed workers nationwide.

“We applaud the Ohio House of Representatives for sending this clear message to Washington,” said Thomas Curelli, President of Great Lakes Maritime Task Force, the largest labor/management coalition ever assembled to promote shipping on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway.  “Not just Ohio needs a second Poe-sized lock, America needs to twin the Poe Lock.  The cargos that transit that lock are critical to maintaining not only our economy, but our national defense capabilities.”

Curelli, who is also Vice President of Engineering, Environmental Services and Governmental Affairs for Fraser Shipyards, Inc., noted a failure of the MacArthur Lock last summer delayed nearly 2 million tons of cargo on U.S.-flag vessels alone.  “If the Poe had gone down for a lengthy period of time, cargos would have been cancelled rather than just delayed.”

Congress has authorized construction of a second Poe-sized lock, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers acknowledges the Soo Locks are the single point of failure for the Great Lakes Navigation System.  However, the Resolution stresses that “a study that contains crucial errors is preventing the construction from proceeding.”

To get the project moving forward, the Resolution calls on the President, Congress and Office of Management and Budget “to support plans to upgrade the Soo Locks … and encourages the Corps to take expeditious action in acknowledging the national security need for maintaining the Great Lakes Navigation System, in addition to properly accounting for the limitation of transportation resources if a lock outage occurs in preparation of an Economic Reevaluation Report.”  Many industries that depend on cargo moving through the Poe Lock can only receive those raw materials via vessels.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder (R) also called for twinning the Poe Lock in his January 2016 State of the State address.

The Corps recently reprogrammed $1.35 million to fund the Economic Reevaluation Report and update the new lock’s benefit/cost ratio.  They project completing the report within two years, but the Great Lakes shipping community is calling for completion in not more than 18 months.

To view the Ohio House Soo Lock Resolution (H.R. No. 263), click here.

Founded in 1992, Great Lakes Maritime Task Force promotes domestic and international shipping on the Great Lakes.  With 84 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 ensuring Lakes dredging is adequately funded, construction of a second Poe-sized lock at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, protecting the Jones Act and other U.S. maritime cabotage laws and regulations; maximizing the Lakes overseas trade via the St. Lawrence Seaway; opposing exports and/or increased diversions of Great Lakes water; and expanding short sea shipping on the Lakes.

For more information contact Glen Nekvasil, Secretary: (440) 333-9996 / E-Mail: info@glmtf.org