Kevin Sprague, the Sault area engineer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, stated earlier this month that an economic reevaluation report for a new Soo Lock is underway, to be completed in December. Industry proponents have been calling for new Soo Locks to replace the aging MacArthur and Poe locks (built in 1943 and 1968, respectively). The Soo Locks facilitate a massive transportation and shipping industry in the Great Lakes region, whose economic output would rank third largest in the world if it were its own country. (BMO: Special Report on Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Economy, 2016)
Speaking at Lake Superior State University’s Cisler Centre in early May, Sprague told attendees of a construction summit that bids to secure funding for a new lock have a “tremendous amount of support right now.” The Sault Ste. Marie Evening News reports that Sprague was optimistic about receiving approximately $600 million in funding required for the new lock. “Theoretically, we could start getting money really quickly,” he stated.
Joanne Gray, chief of construction and technical support with the Corps, explained to construction summit attendees that the project could take up to 10 years to complete. She stated that while a contractor external to the community could be hired to lead construction, local firms would be eligible for sub-contractor roles. Gray also believes that an influx of out-of-town workers could represent opportunities for local hospitality industry and small business.
The Corps currently engages contractors on a number of maintenance projects for the MacArthur and Poe locks. Gray pointed to potential contracts for anchor gate replacement, a new fill/empty valve on the MacArthur Lock, and a gate replacement on the Poe Lock as future opportunities for local contractors.