Great Lakes Commission applauds Soo Locks authorization, other Great Lakes priorities in water resources legislation passed by Congress
Ann Arbor, Mich. – The Great Lakes Commission (GLC) applauds today’s Congressional approval of water resources legislation that contains critical Great Lakes provisions, including authorization for a new large lock at the Soo Locks complex.
The GLC has long called for an upgrade of the Soo Locks, and passed a resolution at its recent annual meeting urging the President and Congress to fully fund a new large lock. Currently only the Poe Lock can handle the largest vessels on the lakes, which carry nearly 90 percent of all cargo passing through the Soo locks. Earlier this year, a report from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers boosted a key cost-benefit score for the $922 million project, setting the stage for updated Congressional authorization for the lock which is vital to the economic security of the U.S. and Canada. There have been no comprehensive improvements to the Soo Locks facility in nearly 50 years and a 2015 Department of Homeland Security study projected that a six-month unplanned closure of the biggest lock alone would result in a nearly complete shutdown of national steel production, leading to eleven million job losses in the U.S. and five million in Canada and Mexico, a severe recession, and a $1.1 trillion decrease in national GDP.
“The Soo Locks are vital to the entire North American economy, with all of the iron ore mined in the U.S. and numerous other important commodities passing through them,” said Michigan Governor Rick Snyder. “I look forward to continuing my work with our partners in the Congressional delegation and the other Great Lakes states to finally get this project done.”
The legislation – formally titled America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 – also includes provisions that will support states and local communities in repairing, maintaining and upgrading wastewater, drinking water and stormwater infrastructure, consistent with the GLC’s 2017 Joint Action Plan for Clean Water Infrastructure and Services.
“Access to clean water is fundamental to human health and our region is facing a water infrastructure crisis,” said John Linc Stine, chair of the GLC and commissioner of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. “With nearly $10 billion needed annually to maintain, upgrade, and replace drinking water infrastructure in the region for the next two decades, the Great Lakes states and provinces applaud the passage of this legislation, which will take important steps toward a more sustainable water infrastructure future for Great Lakes Basin communities.”
The legislation includes additional provisions to support efforts of states, provinces and other partners on key challenges facing the Great Lakes. For example, the Act:
- Directs the Army Corps of Engineers to undertake research on the management and eradication of aquatic invasive species, including Asian carp and zebra mussels;
- Directs the Army Corps of Engineers to implement a five-year harmful algal bloom technology development demonstration program;
- Authorizes the Army Corps of Engineers to carry out a Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency Study; and
- Adjusts the cost share to 80% federal, 20% nonfederal for operating and maintaining measures to prevent the upstream movement of Asian carp through the Brandon Road Lock and Dam near Chicago.
The U.S. Senate approved the legislation today following adoption by the U.S. House of Representatives in September. The Act now goes to the president for his signature.
The Great Lakes Commission, led by chair John Linc Stine, commissioner of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, is an interstate compact agency established under state and U.S. federal law and dedicated to promoting a strong economy, healthy environment and high quality of life for the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence region and its residents. The Commission consists of governors’ appointees, state legislators, and agency officials from its eight member states. Associate membership for Ontario and Québec was established through the signing of a “Declaration of Partnership.” The Commission maintains a formal Observer program involving U.S. and Canadian federal agencies, tribal authorities, binational agencies and other regional interests. The Commission office is located in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Learn more at www.glc.org.