Rep. Chatfield introduces resolution to promote construction of new lock

Feb. 14, 2017

LANSING — State Rep. Lee Chatfield, of Levering, who serves as speaker pro tempore, introduced a resolution to support construction of a new lock at Sault Ste. Marie and urge the president and Congress of the United States to fully fund the project.

“The construction of a new lock is incredibly important to the northern Michigan economy and our national security,” said Chatfield. “This project is long overdue, and with a new president focused on our national security and improving our nation’s aging infrastructure – it’s a no-brainer.”

Congress authorized construction of a second large, Poe-sized lock at Sault Ste. Marie in 1986, and in 2007, Congress authorized construction at full federal expense. Though the project has been authorized and preliminary work conducted, a lack of federal funding has stalled further work, Chatfield said.

Only one of the four Soo Locks is large enough to accommodate the modern vessels that commonly traverse the Great Lakes. Thus, the reliance on one lock poses a serious risk to national security and the economies of the state of Michigan and the United States.

A long-term outage of the Poe Lock due to lock failure or terrorist attack would disrupt steel production in the United States, crippling the economy and plunging the country into recession, Chatfield said. Because no viable transportation alternatives exist, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security estimated nearly 11 million jobs would be lost. Other studies indicate that even a short-term failure of 30 days could result in economic losses of $160 million.

The economic benefits to Michigan, the Great Lakes region, and the entire country far outweigh the cost of constructing a new lock, Chatfield said. A 2017 report to the U.S. Department of Treasury estimated that the $626 million investment in a new lock would provide a return of up to four times that amount.

“The construction of a new lock would be a boon for the Michigan economy and create good jobs in a region that continues to suffer from higher than average unemployment rates,” Chatfield said. “At its peak, the project would employ up to 250 workers and require 1.5 million working hours over the 10 years of construction.”

Chatfields's resolution was referred to the House Committee on Commerce and Trade. A new study on the lock is expected to be completed by December of this year. Lawmakers on both the state and federal levels have been pressing for action in recent years as a lock failure would crippled the shipping industry.