The planned new Soo Lock got a boost last week when $75.3 million for the project was included in a spending bill signed by President Donald Trump Friday.
The Soo Locks, located in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, connect Lake Superior with the other Great Lakes and allow cargo ships to travel between them. But the series of parallel locks is aging. The 1,200-foot-long Poe Lock, the only Soo Lock that can handle 1,000-foot lakers, is more than 50 years old. In August, the Poe Lock closed twice for emergency repairs.
The Soo Locks handle up to 80 million tons of cargo annually, and about 90% of that freight passes through the Poe, highlighting the need for another 1,200-foot lock in case the Poe Lock were to close for a prolonged period of time during the shipping season.
Jim Weakley, president of the Lake Carriers’ Association, said in a news release last week that the money will help the Army Corps of Engineers stay on schedule and within budget. The nearly $1 billion construction project could be finished as soon as 2027 or as late as 2030, the Army Corps said.
“We can now definitively say that there will be a new Soo Lock,” Weakley said.
Funding for the project opened up in 2018 when Trump authorized a $922 million expenditure to build the lock.
According to the project's most recent quarterly update from Army Corps of Engineers, the $75 million allocated last week will go toward deepening the upstream channel, completing the design of the upstream walls and continuing the design of the new lock.
The smaller MacArthur Lock closed for the season on Dec. 15 for critical repairs and the Poe Lock is scheduled to close for the season on Jan. 15. Both are set to open by March 25.