US Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District, announced the Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., are closed to navigation to undergo annual maintenance and repairs.

What are the Soo Locks used for?

They enable ships to sail between Lake Superior and the lower Great Lakes. Water is raised and lowered as they move through the canal on the St. Marys River between Lake Superior and Lake Huron or basically between the Upper Peninsula of the US state of Michigan and the Canadian province of Ontario. They keep busy too, they pass about 10,000 ships per year.

They are vitally important to the Great Lakes Navigation System so while they are down for the winter, the infrastructure is maintained.   It's important that the locks function safely and reliably for the benefit of our nation.  It's considered a high priority for the Detroit district. They have a lot of maintenance on the docket.  Winter maintenance include installation of new hydraulic pump units for control of the Poe Lock operating gates and restressing of tension controls on Gate 1 of the Poe Lock. New gate anchorages will be installed on the operating gates and concrete repairs made to the emptying/filling valve bulkhead slots on the MacArthur Lock. Extensive repair and replacement of gate and approach wall fendering throughout the lock complex will also be undertaken.

Once they are done with winter maintenance, the locks will reopen in March. More than 4,500 vessels carrying up to 80 million tons of cargo maneuver through the locks annually. Iron ore, coal and limestone are among the most frequently carried commodities.

FACTS:  The locks were built in 1968, the Poe is 1,200 feet long. The MacArthur was built in 1943 and is 800 feet long. The last commercial vessel to traverse through the locks for the 2013/2014 shipping season was the barge James L. Kuber with the tug Victory.  The James L. Kuber is carrying 25,913 tons of iron ore to a Detroit port.

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.