SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. (WJMN) — The Soo Locks are set to reopen next week, marking the beginning of the 2023 Great Lakes shipping season.
The Poe Lock will be opened at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, March 25 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District, Soo Project Office (USACE). The lock closed on Jan. 16 for a 10-week winter shutdown, allowing for repairs and maintenance work on the structure.
The public is invited to attend the opening event. The Soo Locks Park and viewing platform will open on March 24 at 11 p.m. and close on March 25 at 1 a.m. The Soo Locks Visitor Center will also host an open house on March 25 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
USACE says the annual operating season for the locks is fixed by federal regulation. The winter shutdown is due, in part, to the feasibility of vessels operating in typical Great Lakes ice conditions.
During the shutdown, the Poe Lock underwent multiple maintenance tasks, according to USACE. Its Gate 1 repairs included anchorage component repairs such as replacing concrete, lifting lugs and turning feet, underfloor drain system inspection, and structural inspection for future replacement.
Gate 3 underwent inspection for structural repairs, gate jacking pedestal inspections, valve
repairs, seal repairs and culvert intake grate repairs. The miter gates are the large gates
at each end of the lock chamber. The gates open and close allowing ships to enter and leave the
lock and preventing water from entering or exiting the lock while boats are lifted or lowered.
“Crews also performed a wide range of other maintenance tasks including fender timber replacements, electrical and mechanical systems inspections, and preventative maintenance on both the Poe and MacArthur Locks and floating plant maintenance,” Nick Pettit, maintenance branch chief, said in a press release.
Contractors also performed work on the Poe Lock ship arrestor project. OCCI of Missouri was
awarded the contract in July 2021, for $17.5 million after awarded options. This winter, the company completed the new downstream arrestor equipment buildings, installed the new arrestor machinery and replaced the arrestor boom.
“This winter a portion of maintenance projects on Gate 1 required the Poe Lock to remain full
while others required the lock to be dewatered,” Pettit said in a press release. “Sequencing Poe Lock maintenance/repairs allowed our team to maximize the non-navigation season.”
For those unable to attend the Soo Locks opening, the event will be live-streamed beginning at 11:55 p.m. on March 24 on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District Facebook page.
The MacArthur Lock, located south of the Poe, is scheduled to open on April 24.
The Soo Locks Park is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. USACE plans to open the Soo Locks Visitor Center on May 1 for the summer season.