Mackinac Conference will include field trip to Soo Locks

Soo Locks, MacArthur Lock, Sault Ste. Marie
Inside the MacArthur Lock at the Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. (File)

MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — When you draw thousands of people from around the state — more than a few of them politicians — to Mackinac Island, you can expect some politicking. That often happens at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s annual conference on the island, though the event is really about policy.

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, says she likes to use the Mackinac Policy Conference to work with other lawmakers on issues of common interest.

“A couple of years ago when I came in as senior senator, I really wanted to make a priority that our whole delegation — House, Senate Republicans, Democrats — visiting places in Michigan where members can see something not in their district that would be important for them as we fight for Michigan,” she told 24 Hour News 8.

Friday, the conference will turn into a field trip with a visit to Sault Ste. Marie.

“We decided … at the end of this conference would have a good time to have everybody go,” Stabenow said. “We invited the governor, we are very pleased the governor and his administration will be there, and House and Senate members with the Army Corps of Engineers to look specifically at the (Soo) locks, tour some of the areas of most concern.”

There has been talk for years about building a second large Soo lock. If the current large lock, named Poe, were to be disabled, it could cause problems for businesses all over the Great Lakes region and the North American economy.

Gov. Rick Snyder has made it clear that he backs the construction of another big lock.

“I’m excited to go with the congressional delegation because we need both sides of the aisle in both chambers all fired up to go back to Washington and as the topic of infrastructure comes up — it’s on the president’s agenda — get people to recognize one of the top three or four most important projects in the entire United States is building another thousand-foot lock at the Soo,” Snyder told 24 Hour News 8. “It’s critical for our national security. That was defined by the Department of Homeland Security. In addition, it’s an economic opportunity. … This thing was authorized back in the ’80s — let’s build it.”

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, was looking forward to the trip. He said having a lot of people with multiple points of view all in one place could lead to some cooperation on big issues.

“We have to have common ground. We’ve got to come together. Democrats, Republicans, we have to come together to do what’s best for the state and this is a way to do that in a very informal way. And you get to know people on a personal level, which is very important. And it’s also about having collaboration with the business community and other folks who are involved in trying to deal with some of the issues that we are facing as a state,” Peters said.

Other items on the agenda for the conference include federal issues and some more local issues, like infrastructure for cities.