New, larger lock at Sault Ste. Marie needed

Gov. Rick Snyder seems to be putting his money, or the state’s, at least, where his mouth is in setting aside $50 million for construction of a new lock at Sault Ste. Marie.

Snyder will tap an unexpected surplus in the state budget, which is in the hundreds of millions of dollars, for the Soo lock funds while earmarking another $300 million to repair the state’s road system. Currently, there is just one lock at the Soo — the Poe — capable of handling the large lake freighters that are crucial to the nation’s domestic iron industry.

“If something were to happen to that lock, it would be economically devastating,” Snyder, at a news conference at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Policy Conference, was quoted in The Detroit Free Press as saying.

As the $50 million represents Michigan’s share of the project, Snyder called on other states to follow suit and commit funds for construction. It’s unclear what formula the state used to come up with the $50 million number. Additionally, it’s unclear what other states could be counted on to pitch in.

Of course, the bulk of the cost for a new lock at the Soo would fall to the federal government, where virtually every administration going back decades, have recognized the need but haven’t found the political will to actually appropriate money and begin construction.

That Snyder is getting out front of the issue, we believe, is a good thing. When Uncle Sam and the surrounding states will take similiar steps is something else altogether.