SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich., – The Detroit District’s Soo Area Office will open the Poe Lock noon, March 24, marking the 2021 Great Lakes shipping season start.
The shipping industry requested an early season opening to ensure safety of the vessels. “We believe a 1200 EST opening on 24 March 2021 provides a safer timeframe for vessels to transit Whitefish Bay and the St. Mary’s River. It facilitates U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) icebreaking prior to and after the initial lock transits,” James Weakley, President of the Lake Carriers’ Association said. “The efficiency of icebreaking for the first transits is the primary driver for this request.”
“The Detroit District was able to accommodate an early opening request due to being ahead of schedule and completing all required maintenance tasks during our annual winter season closure,” said District Commander Lt. Col. Scott Katalenich said.
The locks officially closed January 15 to undergo critical repairs and maintenance during the 10 week-long winter shutdown. Maintenance crews performed a variety of critical tasks on the Poe Lock, including drydocking and repairing a barge, performing upstream and downstream miter gate structural repair work, replacing ice flushing valves on the upstream miter gates, making repairs to a filling valve and an emptying valve, intermediate gate sill repairs, cleaning the Poe Lock’s underfloor drainage system, replacing fender timbers on the piers, and inspecting and performing preventative maintenance on electrical and mechanical systems for both the Poe and MacArthur Locks.
“We worked hard to accelerate work up-front during our annual closure, with crews working 10 hours for six days straight to optimize the short time available for critical maintenance and repairs,” Katalenich said. “Due to the hard work of our maintenance crews and some mild weather at the beginning of our closure period, we’ve been able to accomplish all required work ahead of schedule.”
Poe Lock rewatering began March 15, which will support U.S. Coast Guard ice breakers preparing the shipping channels for the opening of the navigation season.
The MacArthur Lock, located south of the Poe, will remain closed until mid-April.
“We welcome visitors into the park for the 2021 Soo Locks season opening. The park and viewing platform will be open, but we ask everyone entering the park follow CDC guidelines and DOD instructions to wear masks on federal property, including outdoor shared spaces when social distancing cannot be maintained,” Katalenich said.
The park will open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is working on plans to open the Soo Locks Visitor Center May 9, depending on current health conditions, CDC, Federal and State requirements. “We’re excited about the possibility of opening the Visitor Center and have several new exhibits for visitors to enjoy,” Chief Park Ranger Michelle Briggs said.
For more details, contact Detroit District Public Affairs Specialist Carrie Fox, 906-259-2841.
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