LANSING, Mich. — President Trump mentioned the Soo Locks in his address to supporters at a rally in Washington, Michigan Saturday, saying he would help get the locks fixed with support from the Army Corps of Engineers.
Thousands of Michiganders packed the warehouse building where the event was held, and thousands more stood outside in chilly weather to watch the address on an impromptu big-screen. Cheers erupted when the president mentioned he would help fix the locks.
“For decades, the federal government has acknowledged the need for restorations, and I am pleased that President Trump understands the urgency of fixing our aging infrastructure at the Soo Locks,” said Rep. Lee Chatfield, R-Levering. “Not only are the locks an extremely important economic asset to Sault Ste. Marie and the Upper Peninsula, they are also vital to our state and national economies and significant to national security.”
The Soo locks, which connect Lake Superior to Lake Huron, have been a critical shipping connection between these bodies of water for over 160 years. The modern locks still in use, named the Poe lock and MacArthur lock, transport nearly 7,000 vessels per year carrying 75.5 million tons of cargo.
“About half of the cargo that travels through the locks is iron ore from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula,” said Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba. “This material is necessary for the manufacturing of cars, tools and all manner of iron and steel products that are used throughout the country. The giant ships that transport this material rely on the locks to get to the refineries. Any downtime at the locks due to maintenance can be very costly for the entire iron industry.”
Despite their economic importance to the region, major renovations to the locks have not been performed in 50 years. Longstanding plans for upgrades have been delayed because of cost and construction planning difficulties.
“For years there have been discussions about replacing the current Davis and Sabin locks with a new lock that can accommodate larger ships,” said Sen. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City. “Of the four locks, only one is large enough for today’s massive freighters to navigate. I’m happy to hear the president address the need for an upgrade, and I hope we can finally start acting on these drawn-out discussions.”
Trump lightheartedly stated that he would call the Army Corps of Engineers immediately after the rally ended, or at the latest, the day after. Infrastructure upgrades have been a consistent theme in Trump’s addresses, with roads, bridges and airports often getting mentioned as examples. However, this is the first time the president has mentioned the Soo Locks.
“I want to thank the Michigan representatives at the federal level who brought this to President Trump’s attention during his visit,” said Rep. Beau LaFave, R-Iron Mountain. “We’re going to continue working with stakeholders from industry and at all levels of government to see this project through to fruition. Hopefully now we’ll see a greater cooperation to finally fix up the Soo Locks.”