Efficient Funding for the Second Poe-Sized Lock at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan

GOAL: A resilient Great Lakes navigation system with sufficient and efficient federal funding for the second Poe-sized lock at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.

BACKGROUND: The navigational locks at the Soo connect Lake Superior to the lower four Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence Seaway, and international markets. Eighty million tons of cargo, valued at $6 billion and supporting 123,000 jobs, transit the Soo Locks each year. The locks allow cargoes like iron ore and grain to move from mines and farms to customers in the U.S., Canada, and overseas as well as allowing domestic and overseas cargoes to move “up the system” and into upper Midwest markets.

Eighty-six percent of all cargoes transiting the Soo are dimensionally restricted to the one large lock, the Poe. The 76-year old MacArthur, has lost its capability to serve as a functional backup to the Poe.

The economic impacts of the Poe Lock are national, binational, and international. The Department of Homeland Security estimated that a 6-month shutdown of the Poe, a very real possibility for the 50-year old lock, would result in 11 million Americans unemployed from Maine to California and a $1.1 trillion hit to the U.S. economy.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers determined a new lock of the same dimensions as the Poe providing system resiliency is economically critical to the nation. In 2019, the Corps included $32 million from their discretionary work plan funds and the State of Michigan contributed $52 million to jump start the project. The 2020 federal budget has $75.3 million for the project but is $48.5 million shy of “efficient” funding. To maintain the construction schedule, the Corps estimates it needs $173.1 million in 2021, $129.3 million in 2022, and $536.4 million from 2023 until the project is complete.

Efficiently funding the construction of the new lock is critical to Great Lakes commercial maritime transportation whose cargoes supply the industrial base of America that supports everything from the manufacturing of cars to washing machines, energy production, and America’s infrastructure.

ACTION: Congress should appropriate the maximum amount of funds that the Corps can absorb each year, efficient funding, to optimize the construction timeline thereby completing the new lock in seven years rather than ten years and reaping an estimated $30 million in overall project savings.