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Satellite map shows Soo Locks.

WHY SO LONG? Twin Poe Lock at the Soo on Tap Since 1986

$580 Million Project Said Vital to National Economy Lags

July 4, 2016       Leave a Comment
By: Dave Rogers

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The Department of Homeland Security says if it went down the nation's economy would collapse.

Worse than the Great Depression is the prediction if it failed.

About 11 million Americans would be unemployed and the economy would take a $1.1 trillion hit if it happened.

Approximately 75 percent of U.S. steel production would cease within two to six weeks after its failure, according to the Office of Cyber and Infrastructure Analysis of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Most of the automobile, appliances, heavy equipment and railcar production would be shut down and 80 percent of iron ore mining would cease if its failure occurred.

"It" is the Poe Lock, the 47-year-old navigational facility at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.

It connects Lake Superior to the lower four Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Four thousand commercial vessels transit the locks at the Soo each year carrying more than 80 million tons or iron ore, low sulfur coal, grain, limestone and cargoes destined for domestic and foreign ports.

Obviously, it is crucial to the nation, and especially the Midwest.

Obvious, apparently to everyone but Members of Congress.

A new lock was authorized in 1986.

As part of the most recent U.S. Army Corps of Engineers report update in 2005 the Soo Replacement Lock benefit to cost ratio was less than 1.0 which was too low to be considered in President's budgets for construction funding.

"We are currently pursuing funding to reevaluate the economics of this lock and take another look at the benefit to cost ratio due to changes in alternative delivery modes and probabilities of failure of key components of the existing lock," said Lt. Col. Michael Sellers, commander of the Detroit District of the Army Corps, adding:

"If those numbers change, construction funding may be considered in the future. During 2009 we received a $17 million Congressional add to construct two coffer dams and to excavate the downstream channel approach to the area of the proposed new lock. The coffer dams will allow us to hold back water and will provide a dry environment for the construction of the possible replacement lock."

The total construction project cost is currently estimated at approximately $580 million and would likely take 10-years to construct with constant funding year-after-year.

It would seem that a 25-year lead time in planning for this vital lock is sufficient. But Congress is not known for prompt action unless it is considering pet issues of its short-sighted members.

This should be one area where an exception is made, given the gravity of the potential financial catastrophe that appears certain if the lock is disabled


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Dave Rogers

Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
respected journalist/writer in and around Bay City.
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