New Lock Proposed at Soo Straights

Locks Connect Lake Superior to the Other Great Lakes and Beyond

DULUTH, Minn. – The Soo Locks at Sault Ste Marie, Michigan connect the Duluth and Superior shipping industry with the rest of the world, but the aging locks haven’t been updated in decades.

The locks at Soo Straights connect Lake Superior to the rest of the Great Lakes and beyond. The locks raise and lower ships so they can navigate the twenty one foot drop between Lake Superior and Lake Michigan.

If those locks were to shut down, the consequences would be catastrophic.

There is a new proposal to build a new lock as part of the system there to ensure a complete closure doesn’t happen.

“Much of the agricultural production of the Midwest here, the forest production, and the production of minerals from our mines make up the bulk of what goes through the locks at the Soo Narrows,” says U.S. Representative Rick Nolan (DFL-Minn.).

There are two operational locks at the Soo. More than ninety percent of all the Lake Superior cargo passes through the larger lock there, the Poe Lock, because it’s the only one big enough to handle the thousand foot lakers.

If that nearly fifty year old lock closed, a near shutdown of the regional steel industry would happen and eleven million jobs could be lost.

“It’s not hard to imagine the liability of an extended Soo Lock outage,” said Vanta Coda, Executive Director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority. “It would be unacceptable and with this legislative effort that we are announcing support for, it can be avoided.”

That proposed legislation would get the funding to build a new lock big enough to handle the largest Great Lakes ships, which would add an option for shipping if the Poe Lock shut down.

A feasibility study is happening right now to determine what the cost of the new lock could be. If funding is secured, officials say the project is shovel ready so construction could start soon.

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