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Washington — The U.S. Senate voted Wednesday to approve legislation including authorization for $922.4 million to build a large replacement lock at the Upper Peninsula's Soo Locks.

The water-infrastructure bill passed the House last month and now heads to President Donald Trump's desk.

"After a hard-fought effort, the Senate passed my bipartisan bill greenlighting the nearly $1 billion needed to modernize the Soo Locks," Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, said in a statement. 

"In Michigan, we know how vital the locks are to our economy and our national defense. We also know that we are on borrowed time until something happens that shuts them down."

U.S Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, also applauded the passage.

"Now we need the Trump administration to do its part and include the necessary funding for this essential project in their annual budget request because we cannot build our future on the infrastructure investments our grandparents made in the past," Peters said. 

The legislative language relied in part on a cost estimate provided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers this summer in a report recommending a 1,200-foot-long lock to mirror the 49-year-old Poe Lock at Sault Ste. Marie. 

The Army Corps provided an economic analysis that will finally allow the project to compete for construction funding after decades of delay. Construction is expected to take seven to 10 years.

The Poe is the only one of the four aging locks owned and operated by the Army Corps in the Soo is big enough to handle the largest freighters that carry 89 percent of the cargo through the corridor.

An unexpected outage of the Poe could disrupt the supply chain for steel production and manufacturing.

The Soo project seemed to gain momentum following a spring visit by Trump to Michigan, when GOP Reps. Jack Bergman, Paul Mitchell and John Moolenaar told the president of the stalled upgrade. 

"Today's vote shows there is strong bipartisan support for the Soo Locks," Moolenaar said.

"After more than a decade of inaction in Washington, the Soo Locks are receiving the attention they deserve and progress is being made."

mburke@detroitnews.com 

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