Big Sault Ste. Marie lock reopens

Jim Lynch
The Detroit News

The MacArthur Lock at Sault Ste. Marie was back in service Monday after a nearly two-week closure due to mechanical problems.

It’s one of two main locks capable of handling large commercial ships. The passage in the Upper Peninsula allows boats to move back and forth between Lake Superior and Lake Huron.

An extended closure of either the MacArthur Lock or the Poe Lock during the shipping season is a rare thing. The fact that the Poe, the largest of the locks, was still in operation allowed the largest ships to continue passing through over the past two weeks.

In a press release Monday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers stated: “As of August 17, the Corps calculated 103 ships were delayed a total of 166 hours at the locks solely due ot the closure of the MacArthur Lock. Additional delays were experienced by the shipping companies as they slowed down in the system or were holding at dock facilities to minimize the time they waited at the Soo Locks facility.”

A gate that failed to close properly forced shutdown of the MacArthur Lock on July 29, and Army Corps officials had hoped repair work would be wrapped up in 10 days. Officials with the shipping industry had hoped for a faster fix as well.

Glen Nekvasil, vice president of the Great Lakes Carriers Association, estimated roughly 1.8 million tons of cargo were delayed.

“I can’t say at this point what that has cost our members in x number of dollars...,” he said Monday. “That was the longest delay in my memory.”

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