New Soo lock could lift Michigan’s economy

Army Corps of Engineers gets $479 million to build a new lock in Sault Ste. Marie. Project officials say it would create hundreds of jobs.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is getting almost a half-billion dollars to build a new shipping lock in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.

The $479 million comes from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act Congress approved in 2021.

The Soo Locks are a vital part of the nation’s supply chain. Billions of dollars of cargo pass through the Soo every year. The new lock would replace two smaller, obsolete locks. The Army decommissioned one lock in 2010 and uses the other only for official business.

Of the two remaining active locks, only one is long enough to handle the largest ships on the Great Lakes. That’s the Poe Lock, which is named for its designer, Orlando Poe.

We anticipate the construction will create roughly 1,200 jobs per year.” —Mollie Mahoney, project manager, on the economic impact of a new Soo lock

Mollie Mahoney is the project manager for the new lock. She says a failure of the Poe Lock would cripple Michigan’s economy.

“Nearly all of our nation’s high-strength steel used for automotive and appliance manufacturing is made with iron ore that passes through the Poe,” she says. “The new Poe-sized lock will provide much-needed resiliency in the Great Lakes navigation system and that supply chain.”

Artist’s rendering of new Soo lock

Mahoney says the Poe Lock has passed its 50-year design life and requires more critical maintenance as it ages.

“We have to perform all of our major maintenance during the shutdown period between January 15 and March 25,” she says. “Once we have the new lock online, we will take the Poe offline for a little bit to make major rehabs.”

Read More: Work begins on new Soo lock after decades of delays

Congress approved the construction of a new lock in the 1980s, but let funding languish for more than 30 years. Donald Trump pledged to get the project back on track when he ran for president in 2016. Lawmakers approved the first significant budget for the project in 2018. President Joe Biden signed the $479 million expenditure in November 2021.

Mahoney says the project will support hundreds of jobs.

“We anticipate the construction will create roughly 1,200 jobs per year,” she says. “And about 600 of those are direct jobs, most of which will be on site.”

Mahoney says workers should complete construction by 2030.

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  • Pat Batcheller
    Pat Batcheller is a host and Senior News Editor for 101.9 WDET, presenting local news, traffic and weather updates during Morning Edition. He is an amateur musician.