DULUTH – The gateway to Lake Superior is getting its long-awaited upgrade, Great Lakes shippers say, now that $75 million for a new shipping lock at the eastern edge of the big lake has been approved.
"We can now definitively say that there will be a new Soo Lock," Jim Weakley, president of the Lake Carriers' Association, said in a statement. "We're thrilled to see this funding from the President and Congress for the new lock, which has been a long time in coming."
The Soo Locks funding is part of the $1.4 trillion spending measure passed by the House and Senate and signed by President Donald Trump last week. The money will "lay the groundwork" for a new lock chamber, the shipping association said.
If funding keeps getting approved on time, the $922 million project could be completed by 2027.
The 50-year-old Poe Lock, the only lock at Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., able to handle the 1,000-foot lakers hauling iron ore and other cargo across the Great Lakes, has been starting to show its age. Emergency repairs earlier this year stalled shipping traffic and exposed the weakness of what the Army Corps of Engineers calls the "single point of failure in our nation's iron ore supply chain."
The new lock would mirror the Poe at 1,200 feet long, 110 feet wide and 32 feet deep.
The Lake Carriers' Association says the Soo Locks are responsible for $17.4 billion in economic activity every year. About 80 million tons of cargo pass through the locks annually.
The Soo Locks are expected to close for the winter on Jan. 15 and reopen in March as they do every year. The Welland Canal, which connects Lakes Erie and Ontario, will close several weeks later than normal as part of a pilot project keeping it open until Jan. 8, according to the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp.