Great Lakes states commit to new Soo Lock

Funds secured from Michigan, Illinois and Pennsylvania

Construction of a new Soo Lock has taken a step closer to reality with commitments from three Great Lakes states to pick up a share of the cost.

The Michigan, Illinois and Pennsylvania legislatures all appropriated funds this summer to cover their contributions toward the new lock, to be built on the St. Marys River between lakes Huron and Superior. Approximately one-quarter of the $225 million project is to be covered by nonfederal, cost-sharing funds from the eight Great Lakes states. The remaining five Great Lakes states have also committed to supporting the project and are in the process of securing appropriations to cover their shares.

The new large lock will improve shipping reliability and efficiency on the Great Lakes by replacing two World War I-era locks that are too small to handle modern commercial vesssels. Presently, only one of the locks astride the channel at Sault Ste. Maire can handle the 1,000-foot freighters that make up the backbone of today’s Great Lakes fleet, placing the system at risk in the event of a malfunction.

“Construction of this lock will economically benefit our entire region and has been a priority for the Great Lakes Commission,” said Nat Robinson, Chairman of the Commission’s Board of Directors. “We applaud the actions of our member states in committing their resources to this worthy project and call upon Congress to react to this expression of good faith by acting now to appropriate construction funds.”

The Commission is urging Congress to appropriate $6.5 million this session for planning, engineering and design and initial construction.

Great Lakes commercial vessels play an essential role in moving iron ore for the steel industry, low-sulfur western coal to regional utilities and grain to overseas markets. Between 80 and 90 million tons of cargo pass through the Soo Locks each year. Studies show that water-borne transportation is superior to rail and truck transportation from safety, fuel efficiency and environmental standpoints. The Soo Locks also play a critical role in our national defense, as the primary route for iron ore from Great Lakes steel mills.

Efforts to build a second large lock have been under way since the 1980s. Those efforts received significant assistance under the provisions of the Water Resources Development Acts of 1996 and 1999, in which Congress reduced the states’ share of the project and allowed it to be paid over 50 years, interest-free. The Great Lakes Commission has since agreed to become the nonfederal project sponsor responsible for handling those funds.

For immediate release: September 24, 2001
Contact: Mike Donahue, mdonahue@glc.org, office: 734-665-9135

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The Great Lakes Commission, chaired by Nathaniel E. Robinson (Wisconsin), is a nonpartisan, binational compact agency created by state and U.S. federal law and dedicated to promoting a strong economy, healthy environment and high quality of life for the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence region and its residents. The Commission consists of state legislators, agency officials, and governors’ appointees from its eight member states. Associate membership for Ontario and Québec was established through the signing of a “Declaration of Partnership.” The Commission maintains a formal Observer program involving U.S. and Canadian federal agencies, tribal authorities, binational agencies and other regional interests. The Commission offices are located in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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