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Sault EDC pursues Canada trades work on billion-dollar Poe Lock reconstruction

Discussions already held with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
President Donald Trump signing the bipartisan America’s Water Infrastructure Act into law on Oct. 23, authorizing construction of a second 1,200-foot lock at the Soo Locks. (Official White House photo by Shealah Craighead)

With a $1-billion U.S. reconstruction project scheduled to get underway next year at the Soo Locks, the Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corp. is trying to hustle a piece of the action for firms on this side of the international border.

"There's a Canadian firm over there working right now. A lot of the lead construction companies are multinational corporations," executive director Dan Hollingsworth told the EDC's December meeting.

Hollingsworth said the Poe Lock reconstruction is a 10-year project that will be parcelled into three big contracts: dredging and design, building new walls at the entrance and exit to the lock, and the actual lock construction.

"It's going to be a long process. Three big contracts coming forward in the next couple of years."

Late last month, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced more than $32 million had been allocated to the Soo Locks as part of its 2019 work plan.

But Hollingsworth said not much visible work will happen next year: the major construction won't start until 2020.

Hollingsworth has already met with Corps of Engineers representatives to learn about opportunities for Canadian firms.

"We went and talked to them, looking at how Sault, Ontario can play a role. They are talking about some open houses in the next few months, talking about some of those opportunities," he said.

Ward 1 councillor Sandra Hollingsworth asked whether the EDC should be talking to Sault MP Terry Sheehan about making it easier for skilled labour to cross the international border.

Dan Hollingsworth said discussions have been recently held with both Canadian and U.S. immigration and customs officials about that issue, as part of larger strategy issues.

On Dec. 7, U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters announced $20.7 million in federal funding for repairs to the Carbide Dock Port near the Soo Locks.

The Carbide Dock is a staging area for vessels needing emergency assistance.

The funding will also rebuild connecting truck routes serving the dock.

The 2018 navigation season at the American locks is expected to end Jan. 15.

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