Peters Makes First Visit to Soo Locks

Soo Locks Vital to American Economy, National Security

SAULT STE. MARIE, MI - U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) today toured the Soo Locks for the first time as U.S. Senator, where he saw firsthand lock operations and discussed the critical importance of the Soo Locks to Michigan’s economy and national security. During the visit, Peters toured the control room and the MacArthur and Poe Locks and received a briefing from the Army Corps of Engineers on the current state of operations. Last year, the Obama Administration approved $1.35 million to review upgrades for the Soo Locks after Peters and Senator Debbie Stabenow urged approval of the Army Corps of Engineers’ request for a study to help replace the Davis and Sabin Locks with a lock of similar size to the Poe Lock.

“The Soo Locks are the lifeblood of economic activity on the Great Lakes, with many Michigan businesses relying on the Soo Locks to help transport their products to markets across America,” said Senator Peters, a member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and Great Lakes Task Force. “An outage in the Poe Lock would have a catastrophic effect on not just Michigan’s economy, but the entire country’s economic health. I will continue my efforts alongside my colleagues in Michigan’s congressional delegation to ensure that the Locks receive the necessary funding for upgrades and protect the Great Lakes economy.”

The Soo Locks are used to help transport nearly 80 million tons of goods and raw material that supply Michigan’s agricultural, mining, and manufacturing industries. Currently, nearly 70% of cargo vessels are forced to use the Poe Lock because they are too large to use other locks. Congress approved replacing the older Davis and Sabin with a longer, deeper lock to handle bigger ships in 1986 - but funding still has not been provided.

Mechanical problems recently shut down the MacArthur Lock, creating a bottleneck and delays because larger ships must pass through the Poe Lock. A similar unscheduled outage at the Poe Lock could cause up to $160 million in economic losses within 30 days.

A recent study by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security highlighted the national consequences of any shutdown of the Soo Locks. According to the study, a six-month shutdown of the Poe Lock could put the U.S. back in a recession, with an estimated $1.1 trillion loss in economic output and 11 million jobs lost across the country - particularly in the auto and mining industries. During such a shutdown, unemployment in Michigan could rise to 20%. Even a short-term unscheduled shutdown of the Poe Lock during shipping season could result in 75% of the nation’s steel output being halted within two to six weeks.