150TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE SOO LOCKS; Congressional Record Vol. 151, No. 83
(Extensions of Remarks - June 21, 2005)

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[Extensions of Remarks]
[Pages E1301-E1302]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]

                   150TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE SOO LOCKS


                            HON. BART STUPAK

                              of michigan

                    in the house of representatives

                         Tuesday, June 21, 2005

  Mr. STUPAK. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to celebrate a historic symbol 
of exploration and commerce in my district. On Friday, June 24th the 
City of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan will kick-off a summer of activities 
to honor the 150th Anniversary of the Soo Locks.
  Hundreds of years ago settlers established the oldest city in 
Michigan and third oldest in the United States, Sault Ste. Marie, named 
by French explorer Father Jacques Marquette in honor of the Virgin 
Mary. The area, rich with fur trading and fishing, was difficult to 
travel by water because of the rapids or ``Bawating'' as referred to by 
the local Anishnabe Native American Tribe. As a voyager entered the St. 
Mary's River to sail from Lake Superior to Lake Huron the rapids 
dropped 21 feet and was too treacherous to traverse. Voyagers, 
explorers and tradesman were forced to portage their canoes, unloading 
and reloading their cargo via the land trail along side the rapids to 
complete their travels.
  The Northwest Fur Company engineered the first locks on the Canadian 
side of Sault Ste. Marie in the late 1700's. The system involved moving 
a ship into a chamber of water,

[[Page E1302]]

or a lock, and then raise or lower the water level to be even with the 
body of water they wished to traverse. This first set of locks was 
unfortunately destroyed in the War of 1812 and travelers were once 
again forced to carry their cargo by land. The present day lock system, 
mimicking the original design, was developed by civil engineers in 
  In 1852, Congress offered a large public land deal as payment to any 
company that would construct the new lock designed to continue commerce 
between the lakes. The Fairbanks Scale Company agreed to the proposal 
in 1853 because of its mining interests in the Upper Peninsula. On May 
31st 1855, two 350 foot long locks were given to the State of Michigan. 
The State instituted a small toll in the early years of the lock for 
maintenance but in 1877, when commerce exceeded the capability of the 
locks, the State recognized that a new set of locks was necessary.
  In 1881, the locks were transferred to the Federal government under 
the U.S, Army Corps of Engineers. Since that time, the Soo Locks have 
operated toll-free with two canals and fours locks that included the 
Davis, Poe, MacArther and Sabin locks.
  The value of the Soo Locks was never fully appreciated until World 
War 11. As the United States was attacked, it became necessary for 
America to build the ``arsenal of democracy''. To build the world's 
arsenal, America needed steel for its ships, guns, tanks and vehicles. 
In order to make that steel, America needed to mine the iron ore rich 
regions of Minnesota and Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The only practical 
way to move the massive volume and weight of iron ore was by ship from 
Lake Superior, through the Soo Locks, down the St. Mary's River and out 
to Lake Huron, Michigan, Ontario, and Erie to the steel mills of 
Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Illinois.
  As the war's demand for iron ore was at its greatest, Congress 
authorized a new Soo Lock capable of handling the 640 foot ships loaded 
with up to 17,500 tons of iron ore during the 1942 Maritime Class. 
America worked around the clock to build the new lock to hold the iron 
ore boats that stoked the war machine.
  With the end of World War II, the importance of the Soo Locks did not 
diminish. As trade and steel demand increased a new even larger lock 
was needed. In 1965, Congress authorized a new 1000 foot Super Lock. As 
with all the locks, the new lock was named after the engineer in charge 
of the Soo Lock, General Orlando M. Poe, also known for his eight 
lighthouses that grace Michigan's waterways.
  The Poe Lock is the largest lock in the Western Hemisphere and the 
busiest lock in the world. Each year, 80 to 90 million tons of freight 
move through the Soo Locks. Still today, more than 70 percent of the 
raw materials needed to make steel pass through the locks, as does low 
sulfur coal and grain exports. The Great Lakes shipping industry helps 
sustain thousands of jobs in mining, construction, steel making and a 
multitude of support industries. In fact, shipping is so important to 
our economy that just one 1000 foot ore boat can deliver enough iron 
ore to build 60,000 cars.
  Currently, \2/3\ of all freight is restricted to the 32 year-old Poe 
lock, which is the only lock capable of handling 1000 foot ore boats. 
Without this lock, the steel, coal and grain industries would be 
helpless. Recognizing this, Congress authorized construction of another 
``Poe'' size lock in 1986. Over the last eight years, I have been proud 
to secure funding for preconstruction, planning, engineering and design 
for the new lock. Since 2003 alone, over $10 million have been secured 
toward the construction of this new lock. I am pleased that the States 
of Michigan, Illinois and Pennsylvania recognize the economic 
importance of this additional lock by contributing their non-Federal 
cost shares to the project and encourage the other Great Lakes States 
to join us in securing the necessary funding to build this new lock.
  Mr. Speaker, I ask the United States House of Representatives to join 
me in congratulating the historic engineering marvel we call the Soo 
Locks as they celebrate 150 years of exploration, commerce and trade. 
This engineering wonder has provided a proud past of innovation to 
evolve into the critical link to deliver the arsenal of democracy 
during world wars and the economic feasibility for the steel, coal and 
grain industries now and into the future, From the Anishnabe Tribe of 
Native Americans to the men and women who first explored, built and 
operated the locks; to the City of Sault Ste. Marie and her people; to 
a Nation at war; to tomorrow's commerce that flows to and from Lake 
Superior to the other four Great Lakes; the Soo Lock have withstood the 
test of time by meeting the demands of a great Nation, to traverse the 
``rapids'' of history always opening its lock to a brighter future for 
America. Once again with the help of the United States Congress, I hope 
to continue the legacy of the Soo Locks by providing the resources to 
build another super lock that will ensure another successful 150 years 
of waterborne commerce by and through the Soo Locks located at Sault 
Ste. Marie, Michigan.