Soo Locks to close for the season Jan. 15

The Detroit News

Correction: The Soo Locks are closed for annual winter maintenance. The original headline incorrectly characterized the closure.

The Soo Locks sometimes stay open later because of good weather. No chance of that this year, said officials.

After yet another cold spell, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced the lock structures will close Jan. 15. They will reopen March 26.

Two freighters were snagged by rapidly forming ice on the St. Mary’s River, where the locks are located. And that was in late December, before temperatures plummeted to minus 18 degrees during a deep freeze last week.

The ice also has slowed hourly ferries between Sault Ste. Marie and two nearby islands on the St. Mary’s, which separates the U.S. and Canada. Three U.S. Coast Guard cutters have been regularly plowing through the ice to blaze a trail for the ferries and other ships.

While the locks are down, the Army Corps of Engineers will be doing maintenance on them, said Lt. Col. Dennis Sugrue, the corps’ Detroit district engineer.

“It is vitally important we keep the infrastructure in good working order,” he said.

Among the work will be maintenance and/or replacement of gears, valves, blocks, anchorage, cylinder seals and valve seals.

Every year 4,500 vessels carrying 80 million tons of cargo pass through the locks, said the Corps of Engineers. The most common commodities are coal, wheat, limestone and iron ore.