House passes Great Lakes bill, heads to Senate

House+passes+Great+Lakes+bill%2C+heads+to+Senate

Denali Drake

A resolution that aims to protect Michigan’s most vulnerable lakes, ecosystem and people has been passed unanimously by the House and will move forward to Congress. 

House Resolution 160 was proposed by State Rep. Sarah Cambensy (D-Marquette) in hopes of preserving and funding the delicate Soo Locks infrastructure. The resolution is a part of a larger package that supports Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Great Lakes 2020 agenda, and Cambensy’s proposal is the first to be passed out. 

“It is calling upon Congress to keep approving funding and outlining our support for building the new Soo Lock, using local labor, making sure we don’t have any disruption in our economy,” Cambensy said. 

There is hope that, as it was a unanimous vote forward, Congress will take note and continue funding the Great Lakes and economically important structures like the Soo Locks, Cambesy noted. This large iron ore mining dock is located in Sault Ste. Marie and is responsible for the entirety of ore mined in the United States. 

“Living in a community like Marquette where we do mine and we have the ore ports and we do see a lot of transport, a lot of people think it is just the jobs on the ore boat that move the freight. But the supply chain of what it takes to get the ore to the harbor creates a domino effect,” Cambensy said. “If the end product, which is our ore boats that haul, were to be stopped simply by our locks failing, to accommodate our 1,000-foot freighters. We’ve been operating on one large lock for the past 30 years, so it is the time to say, before we have a catastrophe, ‘Let’s take care of this now and get it done.’”

The Soo Locks ore dock impacts over 11 million people’s jobs and produces $500 billion annually, Cambensy said. This makes it important for all of Michigan, and this is why the Great Lakes 2020 agenda is attempting to promote to such a large audience. Congress now has the decision on whether to allocate the funds toward a new Soo Lock that would promise the continuation of ore processing there for many years to come.

Michigan has invested already, with $52 million allocated by former Gov. Rick Synder toward the $1 billion Soo Lock project. This impacts more than the bureaucrats who work on the bill, it also impacts the residents of areas supported by mining and the industries who utilize the materials. The locks are a mega economic gain for the United States, making their maintenance absolutely crucial to the economy, Cambensy said. 

Young people are encouraged to get involved as well, as the more people who write to political bodies, the more attention the issue is given and the more chance that there will result a raise in funding, Cambensy added. 

“I would encourage Northern students to petition their student bodies and send a resolution on behalf of students to Congress, state government, Senate and the House. The more you can do to help me stand behind a project like this, the better,” Cambensy said. “I know a lot of students who come from all over the state of Michigan who would be impacted, whether it’s the through car industry or supplier parts industry, who really would have a stake in this.”

The Great Lakes 2020 agenda will continue to be discussed at the local, state and national levels, with hopes that people will continue to take note of the crucial work that the Great Lakes do for the entirety of the nation.