The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, July 26, 2019

Army Corps seeks to expedite new Soo Lock

By The Building Tradesman

SAULT STE. MARIE - The ridiculously slow process of funding, planning and building a new Soo Lock took another step towards reality last month.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the authority at the Soo, announced June 21 that four projects, including a new lock, have been identified  for further development and validation through the Corps' Civil Works Public-Private Partnership (P3) Pilot Program.

The goal of the pilot program, the Army Corps says, "is to demonstrate the viability of new delivery methods that can significantly reduce the cost and time of project delivery.  The program is part of the 'Revolutionize USACE Civil Works' initiative to expedite delivery of our nation's infrastructure by synchronizing actions, developing new tools and streamlining activities."

A new lock at the Soo is one of four major civil works projects that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has selected as a candidate for the new construction efficiency program. Two others are in Texas, the other is in California. The Corps has a huge backlog of proposed construction projects in its portfolio - with a total price tag approaching $100 billion - that are authorized by Congress, but aren't funded. 

Any expediting of a new lock at the Soo, which could take 8-10 years to complete, would be welcome. Michigan officials have for decades lobbied the federal government to build a new lock that would twin the existing Poe Lock, which was built in 1968. Having twin locks that could handle the passage of the longest 1,000-foot bulk-carrying freighters through the Great Lakes would allow for a backup in the case of a terrorist attack or mechanical breakdown. 

The Army Corps' latest announcement follows the first substantial funding Ok'd for building a new lock, $75 million. The entire project is expected to cost $1 billion and would combine two existing locks.

A RENDERING of the proposed new Soo Lock, at left, with two gates. It would be same size as the existing 1,200 ft long Poe Lock, center.