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U.S., Canadian Officials Endorse Plan To Boost Great Lakes Shipping

10-Year, $3.8B Plan Includes Building New Lock

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (CC-BY)

Governors and Canadian premiers from the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway region have unanimously approved a new maritime strategy that calls for streamlining customs regulations to allow freer movement between Canada and the U.S.

The agreement also recommends strategic dredging to deepen certain shipping channels. The single largest earmark would be several hundred million dollars to build a second “Poe Class” lock in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.

David Nafzger, executive director for the Conference of Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Governors and Premiers, said there’s currently only one such lock that allows the passage of large, so-called laker ships.

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“This is a key choke point for the entire system and right now there is no redundancy,” he said. “So if there’s any type of an issue where the Poe lock is closed, it’ll severely jeopardize the steel industry and much of our regional commerce that depends on it.”

Nafzger said that economic damage could affect a lot of people.

“If that lock were to fail, predictions were upwards of 20 percent regional unemployment, several points of GDP. It would be a real crisis for the region and nation,” he said.

The 10-year project is estimated to cost $3.8 billion and would be paid for by the Canadian and U.S. federal governments, states, and by local ports.