Recent events at the federal level indicate that the Soo Locks Modernization Project may soon take a giant leap forward.
At this month’s Detroit Regional Chamber Mackinac Policy Conference, members of Michigan’s Congressional delegation announced plans to introduce legislation to finance improvements to the Soo Locks. The Soo Locks Modernization Act, sponsored by Sen. Stabenow and Rep. Jack Bergman, would direct the Army Corps of Engineers to carry out construction of a second large lock to supplement the aging Poe Lock. As we have previously noted, the Poe Lock is currently the only lock able to handle the 1,000-foot freighters commonly used on the Great Lakes. The total cost of the project has been pegged at nearly $1 billion (subject to adjustments for construction cost fluctuations). According to Sen. Peters, passage of the bill “will allow the Army Corps to move directly into the design and construction phase.”
Given the widespread benefits of the locks—and the consequences should they shut down—the legislation appears to have strong bipartisan support.
Congress may even begin moving forward before the Army Corps of Engineers completes its $1.35 million study on the project. "They don’t need to do yet another economic analysis because we know what the impact is going to be if we’re not able to replace [the Poe Lock],” said Rep. Fred Upton during the delegation’s tour of the Soo Locks. “[Waiting] would be disastrous."
Governor Snyder joined the delegation on its tour and reiterated the necessity of funding the modernization project as soon as possible. “This is about our national economy . . . [t]his is about our country,” Snyder said, while mentioning that he recently had conversations with the Trump Administration about funding the project.
Those conversations may be proving effective. The President’s 2018 Budget Proposal calls for $38 million to be distributed for the operation and maintenance of the Soo Locks. While the proposed budget requires Congressional approval to distribute any funding, the apparent bipartisan support of the Soo Locks Modernization Act may be an indication that this issue will enjoy consensus.
With the announcement of these funding proposals, opportunities for vendors and contractors may soon be at hand. Parties interested in providing goods or services to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for projects related to the Soo Locks should review the Federal Business Opportunities website. Soo Locks projects are categorized as Detroit District opportunities and use the contract code W911XK.