LANSING – State Representative John Kivela (D-Marquette) said today that he’s pleased that the Michigan House of Representatives has approved his resolution, House Resolution 154,  supporting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers request for funding for a study crucial to moving forward on construction of a second large lock at the Soo Locks at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. Only one of the four Soo Locks is large enough to accommodate the modern vessels that commonly traverse the Great Lakes.

“The Soo Locks are important to not just the U.P. economy but to the state’s economy as a whole because so much commerce travels through the locks every year,” said Kivela. “The fact that only one lock out of the four locks operating can handle 70 percent of the cargo travelling on large ships through the locks is reason enough to give the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers the go-ahead before something happens to the largest of the locks — the Poe Lock — and ships and their cargo are left stranded.”

About 10,000 Great Lakes vessels, carrying 80 million tons of iron ore, coal, grain, and other cargo travel through the locks every year. Much of the domestic iron ore, the primary material used to manufacture steel, travels from mines in Minnesota and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula through the Soo Locks. Most of this travels on ships that can only travel through the Poe Lock. The remainder of the cargo goes through the smaller MacArthur Lock. The smallest locks, the 100-year old Davis and Sabin locks, are rarely used.

Relying on one lock poses a serious risk to national security and the economies of Michigan and the United States. A long-term outage of the Poe Lock due to lock failure or terrorist attack could cripple the economy and disrupt steel production across the country. It is estimated that a 30-day outage would result in economic losses of $160 million. Upgrades to the Soo Locks are needed to ensure national security and unfettered commerce through the Great Lakes. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is requesting funding to move forward with studies that are needed before construction of a new lock.

“The Soo Locks are pathways to markets throughout the northern mid-west states, and it’s our job to take care of them,” said Kivela. “I hope that President Barack Obama and the Unites States Congress will pay attention to this resolution from the state that is home to the Soo Locks. The locks are important to our ability to play in world markets as well as U.S. markets. The sooner we let the engineers do their job upgrading the locks, the better.”