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Governor asks Michigan delegation to start work on funding Soo locks upgrade

Soo Locks
Jim Newsome
flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0
Soo Locks

Governor Rick Snyder wants Congress to go to work now on finding money to upgrade the Soo locks – even though no one knows yet how much it’s going to cost.

Governor Snyder sent a letter to all 16 of Michigan’s members of Congress asking them to start laying the groundwork for the case to fund a renovation that includes adding a new lock that can fit large, modern freighters.

From the letter:

A 2015 analysis by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) found that an unexpected closure of the Soo Locks, especially if it coincides with the peak shipping season, will have significant economic consequences for both Michigan and the nation. The analysis indicates there would be a cascading collapse of the U.S. economy, as three percent of U.S. GDP is reliant on the iron ore moving through the Soo Locks. The DHS report estimates that roughly 75 percent of the U.S. steel production would end within two weeks or less after the closure, and only 35 percent of iron ore and coal could be moved by alternate modes. What’s more, the department estimates 100 percent of the North American automobile production will halt, approximately 78 percent of mining operations would stop within weeks and 87 percent of the North American capacity to make tin cans, jar or bottle tops and paints would cease. A six-month disruption in the Soo Lock could cause an increase of 18 to 22 percent unemployment in the Great Lakes region, leaving at least 4 million people out of work.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is conducting a cost-benefit study that’s supposed to wrap up in 2018. But Snyder doesn’t want the project to fall off of Congress’s to-do list.

Ari Adler is the governor’s communications director. He says an upgrade of the locks was authorized 30 years ago.

“They simply haven’t appropriated the funds for it,” he said, “so we need to kick-start that conversation and get that done.”

He says only one of the existing Soo locks can handle large, modern freighters.

Every year, 4,000 ships carry 80 million tons of cargo such as iron ore through the locks, which connect lakes Superior and Huron.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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