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Water refills Michigan's Soo Locks as opening day nears

Mar 19, 2018 10:24AM ● Published by Editor

Photo courtesy U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District


By Tanda Gmiter - tgmiter@mlive.com - March 19, 2018

SAULT STE. MARIE, MI - The Soo Locks' three-month closure for winter maintenance is nearing its end.

With opening day set for March 25, workers late last week refilled the Poe Lock - the one reserved for the heftiest ships traveling through the St. Marys River on their journeys between Lake Superior and Lake Huron.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District, shared photos of this "re-watering" process.

Once the cascade of water began flowing in, the fore-lock area filled up within minutes, staff said.

Today, divers were set to go into the Poe Lock to do some finish work.

In the last few days, U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Morro Bay has been breaking ice in the lower approaches to the locks to prepare for the start of shipping season on the Upper Great Lakes.

Some cargo ships continued to make runs in Lake Michigan, Lake Huron and others during the deep winter months. But heavy ice coverage on the lakes this winter kept the U.S. Coast Guard busy freeing many ships.

The reverse of the Soo Locks' "rewatering" process - to drain all the water from the Poe - took more than 16 hours and several 300-plus horsepower pumps last January.

During the winter closure, the Poe was to get $2.4 million in upgrades, including the replacement of aging gate pieces.

Of the Soo's four locks, only the Poe and the MacArthur locks are in regular use during the shipping season.

Any ships larger than 730 feet long need to go through the Poe, including the handful of 1,000-foot freighters that work the Great Lakes.

It takes about 22 million gallons of water to raise the level of the Poe Lock by 21 feet when a big ship comes through, the Army Corps said.

Each year, more than 4,500 ships move 80 million tons of cargo through the locks, the Army Corps said.

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