Posted on January 11, 2024
The Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan will close to all marine traffic beginning 11:59 p.m. January 15, or until commercial traffic ceases, through 12:01 a.m. March 25 to perform seasonal critical maintenance.
Federal regulation (33 CFR 207.440) establishes the operating season based on the feasibility of vessels operating during typical Great Lakes ice conditions.
“Every year, the Corps of Engineers uses the non-navigation winter period to perform maintenance and keep the Soo Locks operating,” Maintenance Branch Chief Nicholas Pettit said. “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 winter conditions they work in.”
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 structural inspections, maintenance and install lifting lugs on the upstream miter gate. On the downstream miter gates crews will install anchorage components and complete critical structural repairs. Major rehabilitation will continue on the Poe Lock’s upstream and downstream ship arrestor systems.
The Miter Gates are the large gates serving as dams at each end of the lock chamber, sealing the chamber and allowing the water level to be raised and lowered in the chamber.
In addition to the above, crews also will perform a wide range of other maintenance tasks from replacement of pier fender timber to inspections and preventative maintenance on electrical and mechanical systems on both Poe and MacArthur Locks.
“With the winter temperatures being more mild than previous years, the Soo Operations team has been proactively prepping for the non-navigation season,” LeighAnn Ryckeghem Soo Locks Operations Manager said. “Every year weather poses challenges and adds intensity to maintenance, the team is highly skilled and equipped to safely execute critical projects that allow for continued operational reliability during the navigation season,”
Contractors are currently working on the Poe Lock ship arrestor project. OCCI of Missouri, was awarded the contract in July 2021, for $17.5M after awarded options. This winter they are primarily completing the rehabilitation of the upstream arrestor, installing the new arrestor machinery and replacing the arrestor boom.
The Soo Locks currently have two operating locks: the Poe Lock, scheduled to reopen March 25, and the MacArthur Lock, scheduled to reopen April 24.
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 81 harbors, including the Great Lakes Connecting Channels that join lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, St. Clair and Erie.
Visit the Detroit District Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/USACEDetroitDistrict for information about the last vessel to transit the Poe Lock for the 2023-2024 shipping season and updates on the maintenance work.