Officials in Michigan are pleased that U.S. President Donald Trump is in favor of improvements to the Soo Locks, which connect Lake Superior with Lake Huron. The route is critical for transporting iron ore from northern Michigan to the steel mills on the lower lakes.
“The Soo Locks are going to hell,” Trump said at a speech Saturday night in Macomb County, Michigan. "We are going to start that as soon as I get back. I told your congressman, write that name down for me, the Army Corps of Engineers, we're going to be calling them. It could be tonight depending on the time I get back. But it might be tomorrow even though it's a Sunday."
Michigan lawmakers recently petitioned the president to secure funding for the aging locks, which are in need of repair and are small relative to the size of modern vessels. Congress gave the green light to build a new, bigger lock decades ago, but the project has never been funded.
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder said that he appreciates Trump's support. “I’ve been arguing for this for some time and it’s great to see the president get on board," he said. “To us in Michigan, we understand the issue, but it’s bigger than just a Michigan issue. It’s about economic security for our country."
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) estimates that a six-month unexpected closure of the Poe Lock - the largest of the facility's four locks - would cost 11 million Americans their jobs, and the Great Lakes region's unemployment rate would reach 18-22 percent. The U.S. would lose 75 percent of its domestic steel production within the first two weeks, and North American auto manufacturing and other steel-dependent industries in the Great Lakes area would face severe disruption.
As of Thursday, the Corps of Engineers said that it had not heard from the president about repairs to the locks. "We are not aware of the president having reached out to USACE about the Soo Locks at this time,” a Corps spokesman told the Detroit News.