Some supporters of building a new Soo Lock are hopeful that President Trump could finally be the one to deliver the goods.
Groups like the Lake Carriers’ Association have been trying to get a new lock built at Sault Sainte Marie for decades.
They say an additional lock is needed for the sake of redundancy. The lakes’ 1,000-foot freighters are currently limited by size to one lock — the Poe Lock — to move between Lakes Superior and Huron.
“I’m optimistic that President Trump will cut through the bureaucratic obstacles and that we’ll start constructing this project during his administration,” says Jim Weakley, the president of the Lakes Carriers’ Association.
In 2015, a report from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said a failure at the Poe Lock could cause a national recession. That’s because the manufacturing economy is dependent on iron ore coming out of the mining regions of Michigan and Minnesota. Without the big iron boats moving freely between the upper and lower lakes, the flow of ore to steel plants would slow to a trickle.
Congress first authorized the building of a new Soo Lock in the mid-1980s, but since then has not appropriated the estimated $600 million it would cost to complete the project.
Weakley says a lot is riding on a benefit-cost study that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is doing right now. With a high enough rating, the program would be fundable in the president's budget.
But Weakley says he’s worried the Army Corps could bury the project in its analysis.
The benefit-cost study is not expected to be completed until 2018.