Construction Ready for New Lock at Sault Ste. Marie

The dream of increased access to the port of St. Joseph & Benton Harbor by worldwide shippers is a step closer to reality with news from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District, that the project for a new lock at Sault Ste. Marie is on schedule as construction for phase one began in the past week.

Trade West Construction, Inc., began to move equipment to the site on May 4th and will begin deepening the upstream approach to the locks in the north canal within the next month.

Phase one of the project, which is upstream channel deepening, will facilitate the construction of a new Poe-sized lock in the place of the existing Davis and Sabin Locks. That work is expected to be complete in November of 2021.

Lt. Col. Gregory Turner, Commander of the Detroit District of the Army Corps says, “It’s incredible that we’re starting this construction a year earlier than even the most optimistic projections when the project was reauthorized in 2018,” and adds, “Getting the first phase started sets the conditions for the project’s ultimate completion.”

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The three major phases of the project remain on track with their timetables virtually unaffected by the coronavirus pandemic at this time. Phase two involves rehabilitation of the upstream approach walls, which will stabilize the existing approach walls to allow for modern vessels to tie up and wait their turn to pass through the new lock. The third phase, construction of the new lock chamber, will include rehabilitating downstream approach walls and is nearing its 70-percent design milestone.

The Soo Locks are situated on the St. Marys River at Sault Ste. Marie, and allow vessels to transit the 21-foot elevation change at the St. Marys Falls Canal. Over 85-percent of commodity tonnage through the Soo Locks is restricted by vessel size to the Poe Lock. This new lock project will construct a second Poe-sized lock (110′ by 1,200′) on the site of the existing decommissioned Davis and Sabin locks.

According to a 2015 Department of Homeland Security study on the impact of an unexpected Soo Locks closure, the Soo Locks are nationally critical infrastructure and the reliability of this critical node in the Great Lakes Navigation System is essential to U.S. manufacturing and national security.

The photo accompanying this story on Moody on the Market, courtesy of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is an artist rendition that illustrates what it might look like if a second Poe-sized lock replaced two of the older locks (as shown in the left portion of the photo-rendition).