Soo Locks close for the season

This undated file photo shows an aerial view of the Soo Locks looking east in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., with the United States on the right and Canada on the left. Ground will be broken Tuesday, June 30, 2009 for two dams to hold back the St. Marys River so crews can begin work on a new lock to accommodate the largest freighters, which can be up to 1,000 feet long. Congress first authorized the project in 1986 but has yet to come through with money to build it. The new lock is expected to cost about $490 million. (AP Photo/The Evening News)

DETROIT — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District, recently announced the seasonal closing of the Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, from Monday through late March. The corps will use this time to perform critical maintenance on the lock structures, according to a press release.

“It is vitally important that we keep the infrastructure at the Soo Locks in good working order,” Lt. Col. Dennis Sugrue, district engineer, said in the release. “The district puts a high priority on keeping the locks functioning safely and reliably for the benefit of our nation.”

While closed to navigation, crews will be busy with a variety of maintenance projects on both the Poe and MacArthur locks in preparation for another season.

Planned winter maintenance work includes: Poe Lock Miter and Quoin block replacement, Poe Lock Gate 2 embedded anchorage replacement, Poe Lock Gate 3 cylinder seal Replacement, North Poe Lock valve maintenance, MacArthur Lock embedded anchorage replacement, MacArthur Lock filling valve seal replacement and MacArthur Lock bevel gear replacement.

More than 4,500 vessels carrying up to 80 million tons of cargo maneuver through the locks annually, the release states. Iron ore, coal, wheat and limestone are among the most frequently carried commodities. Opened in 1969, the Poe Lock is 1,200 feet long. The MacArthur Lock was opened 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.