Soo Locks are closed for season

Cason J. Callaway_Photo from boatnerd.com

DETROIT – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District reports that the Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, are closed for the winter season.

The season’s final vessel was the the 767-foot Cason J. Callaway . The Callaway entered the Poe Lock and out of Lake Superior just after 6 p.m. Tuesday, downbound with 25,000 net tons of taconite pellets.

During the 2012 navigation season, 4,086 cargo vessels passed through the Soo Locks carrying about 75 million tons of iron ore, coal, grain and other commodities. In addition to cargo vessels, a total of 3,278 tour boats, private boats and other recreational vessels used the locks this past year.

The Corps has operated and maintained the locks as part of its navigation mission since 1881 and will use the downtime to perform critical winter maintenance on the lock structures. 

"The Soo Locks is the linchpin of the Great Lakes Navigation System, and it is vitally important that we keep this infrastructure in good working order," said Lt. Col. Robert Ells, district engineer. "This time of year, our dedicated and hard-working staff at the Soo Area Office perform important maintenance and repair work under strict time constraints to prepare the locks for the next shipping season. The district puts a high priority on this work to keep the locks functioning safely and reliably for the benefit of our nation."

District personnel will perform a 5-year periodic inspection of the MacArthur Lock, while work crews repair watertight doors and miter gates, and install a new air bubbler ice suppression system on the MacArthur Lock gates. Concrete upgrades and installation of gate fenders are also planned in the MacArthur Lock. Piping will be installed in the Poe Lock for a new hydraulic system to operate the gates, booms and valves. Once winter maintenance is complete, the locks will reopen in March.

Built in 1968, the Poe is 1,200 feet long. The MacArthur was built 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.