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We’ve Got Issues: Should we privatize the Soo Locks?

David Cassleman

Advocates for a new Soo Lock have been trying to get Congress to fund the estimated $600 million project for decades. Congress first authorized the construction of the lock in the 1980s but has not come up with the money to pay for it. 

With President Trump in office, there is renewed optimism among some that now could finally be the time to build it.

But Jarrett Dieterle, a fellow at the R Street Institute in Washington, D.C., says it should not be taxpayers footing the bill. He says either privatizing the lock or allowing the Army Corps of Engineers to charge user fees would make more sense. 


Dieterle co-wrote a piece advocating what he calls alternative financing models in the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s Michigan Capitol Confidential in 2016. 

“What we suggested was either a privatization model or a user-fee model that would be run by the government,” Dieterle says, “that would essentially unlock immediate funding for the lock and would allow the lock to get funds that weren’t federal to do its repairs and maintenance.”