As the sun is about to set on 2018, the future of Great Lakes freighters making their way into the local harbor will be greatly enhanced by action this week from Gov. Rick Snyder and the State of Michigan to advance construction of a new Soo Lock at Sault Ste. Marie.
Those efforts to construct a new Soo Lock took a big step forward as Michigan and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District, have signed a memorandum of agreement this week officially committing Michigan’s contribution of up to $52 million for the new lock at the Soo Locks facility in Sault Ste. Marie.
While signing the deal, Gov. Snyder said, “The Soo Locks are essential to our economy and national security. The time is long overdue for construction to begin on the new lock,” and he added, “I’m pleased that the work is finally getting underway and hope that Congress quickly provides the rest of the funds needed to complete the project.”
The state’s contribution, which will also allow award-winning photographers like Molly Pate of Berrien Springs to capture images like you see here, will be used to pay for construction activities, including a portion of the channel deepening as well as design work for the new lock. It's estimated that Michigan’s contribution, combined with the Corps’ $32 million, will accelerate the project’s completion by one year, saving taxpayers an estimated $30 million.
Lt. Gov. Brian Calley says, “We have seen more progress in efforts to make the Soo Locks upgrade a reality this year than we have in decades,” and he adds, “I’m proud that Michigan’s commitment combined with the Corps’ recent investment is helping begin the initial steps for the new lock. Together, we are making this essential project a reality.”
The Soo Locks are instrumental to commercial harbors like the St. Joseph-Benton Harbor waterfront which bring hundreds of thousands of tons of aggregate road construction materials, industrial sand and gravel, and even critical supplies of road salt to a widespread region of Michigan's Great Southwest. Our local harbor is a deep draft federal harbor that saw more than 280,000 tons of material pass through it. Those commodities generate $840 million in business revenue and support more than 5,000 jobs.
This Soo Locks project was authorized by Congress in 1986, though funding never followed. Michigan accelerated its advocacy for the Soo Locks project following President Trump’s visit to Michigan and commitment to the project in April.
Lt. Col. Greg Turner is District Engineer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at the Detroit District. He says, "The state of Michigan's contribution demonstrates their commitment to the construction of the New Soo Lock and highlights the importance of the project to the state and the nation." Turner adds, "Combined with the funds received in the fiscal year 2019 Work Plan, the state of Michigan's funds allow us to get after the project's critical path and execute the entire upstream channel deepening, buying down risk by moving the project completion ahead nearly a full year and saving an additional $30 million."
Progress this year has included:
- A website, michigan.gov/fixthesoolocks, launched in April to educate stakeholders about the importance of this project.
- Commitment in May of up to $52 million in state funds made to accelerate the project.
- Release in July of a new economic study showing the financial feasibility of upgrading the locks, showing an improved benefit-cost ratio for the project.
- Reauthorization of the project in October at its current cost-estimate of $922 million.
- The Corps committed $32 million to the project for fiscal year 2019, in November.
To learn more about Michigan’s efforts to move the Soo Locks upgrade project forward, you can click the link below:
Additional information is available on the Corps’ Website at this link: http://www.lre.usace.army.mil
The photo accompanying this story on Moody on the Market is courtesy of Molly Pate of Berrien Springs and was an award winning photo included in the 2019 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District Photo Contest Calendar. It shows the motor vessel Great Republic entering the St. Joseph River at sunset from the North Pier at Tiscornia Park in St. Joseph and is the image on the Army Corps calendar for April of 2019.