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New Lock at the Soo Major Construction Continues

SAULT STE. MARIE, MI — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' New Lock at the Soo project remains on schedule as major construction continues with phases 2 and 3 this season.

Joint ventures Kokosing-Alberici (Upstream Approach Walls, Phase 2), and Kokosing, Alberici, Traylor (New Lock, Phase 3) have a busy construction season ahead of them.

“Since resuming major construction this season, the Phase 2 contractor has placed 13 concrete caps, bringing the total caps placed to 68, and preparation for placement of new steel sheets, steel posts, and concrete panel wall are in progress,” New Lock Senior Project Manager Mollie Mahoney said. “The Phase 3 contractor plans to focus on demolition of aging structures, extensive electrical work, bridge construction, and coffer dam construction to allow for dewatering.”

Phase 3 excavation work will include blasting activities, which will be communicated with stakeholders as blasting activities get closer.

Phase 1 included deepening the upstream approach to the New Lock from 24 feet to 30 feet deep so modern vessels can approach the New Lock at the Soo and concluded in August 2022, under budget and ahead of schedule.

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Phase 2 includes rehabilitating the upstream approach walls to stabilize the existing approach walls, allowing modern vessels to tie up and wait their turn to pass through the New Lock at the Soo. The estimated completion date for Phase 2 is summer 2024.

Phase 3 includes demolishing the existing Sabin Lock, excavation of bedrock, constructing the New Lock at the Soo chamber walls and floor, fabrication and installation of miter gates, installation of mechanical and electrical systems, installation of the hands-free mooring system, rehabilitating downstream approach walls, and constructing a new pump well. The estimated completion date for Phase 3 is summer 2030.

“The Detroit District is pleased to continue work with both joint venture contractors on Phase 2 and Phase 3 of the New Lock at the Soo,” said Lt. Col. Brett Boyle, Detroit District Commander. “We recently had a partnering meeting with Phase 2 and 3 contractors and are confident this project will continue safely and on time.”

The Soo Locks are situated on the St. Marys River at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, and allow vessels to transit the 21-foot elevation change at the St. Marys Falls Canal. Nearly all (88%) domestically produced advanced high-strength steel used to manufacture products like automobiles and appliances is made with taconite (iron ore) restricted by vessel size to the Poe Lock. The New Lock at the Soo project is constructing a second Poe-sized lock (110 feet by 1,200 feet) in the existing footprint of the decommissioned Sabin Lock.

The Soo Locks are a nationally critical infrastructure, and this critical node’s reliability in the Great Lakes Navigation System is essential to U.S. manufacturing and National Security. An unscheduled Poe Lock outage would have significant impacts to the U.S. economy, especially the steel industry, according to a 2015 Department of Homeland Security study on impacts of an unexpected Soo Locks closure.

“Keeping the existing facility operational while constructing the New Lock is a high priority for the Detroit District,” Soo Locks Operations Manager LeighAnn Ryckeghem said. “Our world-class team at the Soo Locks tirelessly work[s] to ensure continued reliability.”

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