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Local News

Whitmer and Gilchrist Celebrate Increased Funding for Soo Locks Project

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by Kyle Davidson, Michigan Advance
July 24, 2023

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist joined the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Sault Ste. Marie on Monday to congratulate them on receiving additional funding for a new Soo Lock.

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist on Feb. 8, 2023. (Andrew Roth/Michigan Advance)

“This is a project that’s been a long time coming. We’ve been hoping for this, looking forward to it since 1987,” Gilchrist said in a video posted to Twitter

On Thursday, the office of U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.) announced that Peters and U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing) had requested $235 million in funds for the Soo Locks, with the Senate Appropriations committee approving the Fiscal Year 2024 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act as part of the federal budget. 

“The Soo Locks are critical to Michigan’s economy and to our entire country,” Peters said in a statement. “There’s no question that continuing to modernize the Soo Locks is long overdue – and even a temporary shutdown of one lock would have incredibly harmful impacts on Great Lakes commerce, jobs, national supply chains and our national security.”

The Soo Locks, located on the St. Marys River, is a major trade junction that connects Lake Superior to Lake Huron. The locks lower and raise boats between the higher water levels of Lake Superior to the lower water levels or other Great Lakes, allowing freighters to travel from Duluth, Minn., out to the Atlantic Ocean. 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been working to construct a new lock at the soo, with the first of three phases of construction completed in 2022. Most ships use the Poe Lock, which was rebuilt in 1968 to accommodate the larger size of modern ships. The new lock project is working to build a second poe-sized lock in the place of two decommissioned locks.

The project previously received $478.9 million in 2022 as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and another $214.2 million in an addendum. 

According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 88% of commodities carried by ships through the locks go through the Poe Lock. A 30-day unscheduled closure of the Soo Locks would have an economic impact of at least $160 million. 

“The Soo Locks play a crucial role in Michigan’s economy. They provide thousands of jobs and facilitate millions in trade each year,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a response to Gilchrist’s post.

“This new Lock is just one example of how we’re rebuilding Michigan’s critical infrastructure,” Whitmer said.

Michigan Advance is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Michigan Advance maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Susan Demas for questions: info@michiganadvance.com. Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.