The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, October 19, 2018

News Briefs

By The Building Tradesman

New Soo Lock money finally OK'd

After two decades of study and delays, the process of upgrading the Soo Locks is finally floating through Congress. 

On Oct. 10 the U.S. Senate adopted a water infrastructure bill that lines up with a House version, which allocates $922 million for the creation of a new lock at Sault Ste. Marie. The new lock would twin the existing Poe Lock, which was constructed in 1968 and is the only lock on site capable of moving the 1,000-foot iron ore and bulk carries that traverse the Great Lakes. Failure of the Poe Lock for any length of time would have a devastating effect on the nation's economy.

The funding measure was expected to be signed by President Trump, who expressed interest in building the new lock after a visit to Michigan earlier this year and Republicans representatives Jack Bergman, Paul Mitchell and John Moolenaar told the president of the need for the upgrade.  Construction is expected to take seven to 10 years.

“After a hard-fought effort, the Senate passed my bipartisan bill green-lighting the nearly $1 billion needed to modernize the Soo Locks. In Michigan, we know how vital the locks are to our economy and our national defense," said U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabneow, who sponsored the legislation. "We also know that we are on borrowed time until something happens that shuts them down. This is a significant win that will help ensure this vital gateway for commerce and jobs stays open.”

There are four locks at the Soo. Earlier this year the Army Corps of Engineers completed a study that agreed with the necessity of building a new lock, which would be created by combining two of the smaller locks at the site.

UIA fraud lawsuit before Supremes

LANSING - The Michigan Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Oct. 10 in Bauserman vs. UIA, a case that will determine whether legal action can continue against the state in the wake of an estimated 44,000 people being wrongly accused of fraud and 186 people wrongly charged with Unemployment Insurance Agency fraud. 

Flaws in the UIA's computer system, the Michigan Integrated Data Automated System (MiDAS) caused thousands of jobless workers to be accused of fraud for a two-year span beginning in 2013. The UIA acknowledged the error and announced last year that it had reimbursed more than $20.8 million to some 40,000 affected residents, a number questioned by the attorney representing the lead plaintiff, who said some claimants have received less back from the state than they lost when their wages were garnished or with associated fees and penalties. Many claimaints filed for bankruptcy, lost homes and have had their credit ruined. 

The action in the Supreme Court follows a state Court of Appeals ruling last year that said plaintiffs who were harmed should have filed lawsuits within the required six month time frame of the state's false accusation of fraud. The plaintiffs are appealing, claiming that the six month clock on taking legal action should have started when their wages were garnished and income tax refunds were seized.