Crews at Soo Locks prepare for new shipping season

By: Roxanne Werly

CHIPPEWA COUNTY, Mich. (WPBN/WGTU) — With the start of the new Great Lakes shipping season next week, crews at the Soo Locks are getting ready.

The Soo Locks closed for the winter on January 15.

During the ten-week closure, critical maintenance was performed on the structures.

A major part of the winter work season was wrapped up Monday with the rewatering of the Poe Lock.

Workers begin preparing to remove the first of the stop logs forming a temporary dam at the upper end of the Poe Lock. Photo Courtesy: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District

As the water in the fore bay rises, it begins to flow into the culverts through the filling ports. The “trash racks” on the outside catch large pieces of ice and debris.Photo Courtesy: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District

A lot takes place behind the scenes to get ready for the new shipping season when the Soo Locks reopen on March 25.

On Monday the tug Billmaier started breaking up ice above the Poe Lock so barges could be moved into place. The barges receive stop logs as they are removed from the structure.

The tug Billmaier began breaking up ice above the Poe Lock so barges could be maneuvered into place to receive stop logs as they were removed. Photo Courtesy: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District

Once the second log was lifted from the Poe Lock, water started flowing into the fore bay and lock chamber.

With the lifting of the second log, water begins flowing in to fill the fore bay and lock chamber.Photo Courtesy: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District

After two logs were removed and water started filling up the Poe Lock divers helped with removing the submerged logs.

With the top two logs removed it is time for divers to assist with removing the submerged logs. Tenders assist a diver making his way to the water. Photo Courtesy: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District

The divers are only in the 33-degree water for a few minutes. They are wearing dry suits as they connect the lifting beam to the stop logs.

Each dive into the icy, 33 degree Fahrenheit water to connect the lifting beam took only a few minutes so divers were able to safely and comfortably work in dry suits.Photo Courtesy: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District

Divers have helmet cameras, which is critical equipment that gives others a view of the diver under water as they connect a hook to the stop log.

The ”helmet cam” provides a view of diver under water connecting the hook to the stop log.Photo Courtesy: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District

A sure sign of spring and the start of a new shipping season on the St. Mary’s River is the crane barge Harvey floating and ready.

After a long winter on the floor of the lock, the crane barge Harvey is once again floating and ready for another busy year on the St. Marys River. Photo Courtesy: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District

The U.S. Coast Guard and Canadian Coast Guard cutters are breaking ice to get ready for the busy season ahead.

Late in the afternoon Monday the first vessels of the season, U.S. and Canadian Coast Guard cutters, were in the lower harbor. Photo Courtesy: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District

Every year, more than 4,500 vessels carrying up to 80 million tons of cargo maneuver through the locks.

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.

 

SOURCE: UpNorthLive