The Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan will close to marine traffic beginning 11:59 p.m. January 15 through 12:01 a.m. March 25 to perform critical maintenance.
The operating season is fixed by federal regulation and is driven in part by the feasibility of vessels operating in typical Great Lakes ice conditions.
“It is a difficult time in terms of weather to complete this work, but it keeps this important national infrastructure project operating during shipping season,” Soo Area Engineer Kevin Sprague said.
Every year, the Corps of Engineers uses the winter period to perform maintenance to keep the Soo Locks operating. The Detroit District team works long hours in extreme conditions to complete a significant amount of maintenance during this annual closure period. The work they perform is unique, especially given the harsh northern Michigan conditions they work in.
The Corps of Engineers has several projects to complete before reopening the locks in March.
“The dewatering gate will be used at the lower end and stop logs will be set at the upper end of the Poe Lock to allow work and inspection to occur on the Poe Lock,” Maintenance Branch Chief LeighAnn Ryckeghem said. “Sequencing for the Poe Lock dewatering efforts require full operations and maintenance staffing including weekend and holiday work from Jan. 15-21.”
The team will install a temporary panel bridge across the Poe Lock. This panel bridge will provide the ability to mobilize materials and equipment to the job sites throughout the winter closure.
Maintenance crews will complete Poe Lock hydraulic steel structure inspections, miter gate bottom girder structural repair and seal replacement, miter gate pintle concrete repairs, dewatering system maintenance and floating plant maintenance. The miter gates are the large gates that serve as dams at each end of the lock chamber allowing the water to be raised and lowered in the chamber.
Contractors will perform rehabilitation of the Poe Lock upstream primary gate. Abhe & Svoboda Inc. of Jordan, Minnesota, was awarded the contract in July 2021 with a construction completion in March 2022. The contract amount is $4.3 million.
In addition to the above, crews also perform a wide range of other maintenance tasks from fender timber replacements on the piers to inspections and preventative maintenance on electrical and mechanical systems on both Poe and MacArthur Locks.
The Corps of Engineers is building a second Poe-sized lock to provide much needed resiliency in the Great Lakes Navigation System. The second Poe-size lock, 110-feet by 1,200-feet, is being built on the existing Davis and Sabin Locks sites. The Davis Lock, which opened in 1914, has not used since 2018, and only to transport Corps vessels. The Sabin Lock opened in 1918 and has been inactive since 1989. Both the Sabin and Davis Locks are too shallow for most modern vessels.
The Corps of Engineers contractor wrapped up the second year of upstream channel deepening mid-December, excavating about 150,000 cubic yards of Jacobsville sandstone to deepen the north canal enough for the 1,000-foot ships that will use it. The deepening work will resume in Spring 2022. The project’s second phase to stabilize the existing upstream approach walls wrapped up the first year of construction. The contractor constructed an on-site concrete batch plant, installed 26 coffer cells and placed 13,000 cubic yards of concrete. The upstream approach walls work will resume in Spring 2022. The final phase of construction, constructing the lock chamber, is scheduled to begin in the 2022 construction season.
Watch the Detroit District Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/USACEDetroitDistrict for information about the last vessel to transit the Poe Locks for the 2021-2022 shipping season and updates about the maintenance work.
More than 4,500 vessels, carrying up to 80 million tons of cargo, maneuver through the locks annually. Iron ore, coal, wheat and limestone are among the most frequently carried commodities. Opened in 1969, the Poe Lock is 1,200 feet long. The MacArthur Lock was opened in 1943 and is 800 feet long.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District, maintains a navigation system of 95 harbors, including the Great Lakes Connecting Channels that join lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, St. Clair and Erie.
To find more information on the Soo Locks, visit the Detroit District Website: www.lre.usace.army.mil.