Soo Locks gets federal funding for major upgrade
More money is going to help fund a new lock in the St. Marys River in Sault Ste. Marie. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced $478.9 million in federal money will come from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed by Congress in 2021.
The new 1,200 foot lock will allow modern shipping vessels to pass between Lake Superior and the rest of the Great Lakes.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says the new lock is crucial for the Great Lakes shipping industry.
“We have this 52-year-old lock that has exceeded its 50-year design life, and it is that potential single point of failure in our nation’s supply chain of iron ore,” said Mollie Mahoney, a project manager with the Corps of Engineers.
The Poe Lock is currently the only way for large ships to get in or out of Lake Superior. Mahoney said this access point can create a bottleneck which can be felt across the country. Nearly all the high-strength steel produced in the U.S. and used for things like automobiles and appliances is made from iron ore that passes through the Soo Locks.
“All of the iron ore that’s mined in our country comes out of Minnesota and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan,” said Mahoney. “Those supply chains from upper Lake Superior down to the steel mills and the lower Great Lakes were developed back in the 1850’s when the locks at the Soo first opened [and have] remained relatively unchanged”
The recent allocation of funds means about $958 million in federal resources will be allocated to the project. Construction of the new lock will begin this summer, and won't be complete until 2030.