Lansing, Mich. — State Rep. Lee Chatfield and state Sen. Wayne Schmidt toured the Soo Locks on Tuesday, inviting fellow state legislators to view the inner workings of the locks and demonstrate the need for a new lock at the Sault Ste. Marie facility.
Chatfield, of Levering, and Schmidt, of Traverse City, invited their state colleagues to the tour, which enabled them to see the details of the passageway linking Lake Superior and the Upper Peninsula to the lower Great Lakes.
The locks, which were built between 1896 and 1943, are vital to the national economy with an annual cargo of 75.1 million metric tons going through every year.
Chatfield stressed the need for a new lock, which was authorized by Congress in 1986 but has been delayed because of a lack of federal funding.
“Of the four locks, only one is large enough for today’s massive tankers to navigate, and if that were to be damaged or break down, the economic ramifications would be massive,” said Chatfield. “Senator Schmidt and I arranged this tour so other state legislators can see how the locks operate and how critically important a new lock is to our state.”
Chatfield introduced a House Concurrent Resolution urging the president and Congress to fund the project earlier this year.
“We are not alone in this,” said Schmidt. “Other states have also approved similar resolutions urging the federal government to act because of the tremendous economic impact a failure could have on the entire Great Lakes region.”
Both lawmakers say they hope the tour accentuates the vital need to fully fund construction of a new lock to replace two of the older, seldom-used locks.
“There is strength in numbers, and those who took the tour today can put new emphasis on their members of Congress to allocate the money to get this job done,” Chatfield said.
Schmidt also noted the importance of Tuesday’s tour.
“I was very pleased to hear the governor mention the importance of modernizing the Soo Locks in his State of the State speech earlier this year, and I hope that after today’s tour, my colleagues in the Legislature also recognize the importance,” Schmidt added. “With the governor’s office and the Legislature working together on the same page, I think we can strengthen our case to Michigan’s congressional delegation.”