After being passed through senate via a vote of 99 to 1, America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 has been signed into law by President Donald Trump. The bill authorizes the construction of 12 new water infrastructure projects using $6.1 billion USD. This includes $922 million USD for the construction of a new navigation lock in the Soo Lock System located on the St. Marys River: the sole connecting waterway between Lake Superior and the rest of the Great Lakes.
The Soo Lock System is part of the greater St. Marys River complex: a set of infrastructure that bypasses the St. Marys Rapids. The St. Marys River Rapids drops 21 ft / 6.4 m from top to bottom. The U.S. Soo Lock System consists of four locks, only one of which—the Poe lock—has enough space between the upper and lower gates to allow the passage of the largest and most efficient cargo ships.
A single lock is operated on the Canadian side of the St. Marys River which is 233 ft / 71 m in length, 51 ft / 15.5 m in width and 44 ft / 13.4 m deep. The lock is used for recreational vessels and Parks Canada operates the Sault Ste. Marie Canal National Historic Site there.
U.S. Soo Lock System Overview:
A new lock was previously authorized in 1989 under the Water Resources Development Act; however, progress has stagnated since preparations were completed in 2009 (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: A Quick History of the Soo Locks). The America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 includes a Soo Lock Post-Authorization Change Report that reignites the cause to build a second lock equal in size to the Poe Lock. It allocates 7 years and $922 million USD for the construction of a new lock by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. According to the city of Sault Ste Marie, Michigan, seven thousand vessels and 86 million tons of cargo pass through the Soo Lock System annually, and the majority of that goes through the Poe lock. You can visit the locks as a tourist to witness how these massive ships get over that 21 ft drop.
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