SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. (WJMN) – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Detroit District (USACE) shared an update on Friday as phases 2 and 3 of the ‘New Lock at the Soo‘ construction project continue in 2023.

The completed project, shown in a mock-up drawing below, will create a lock equal in size to the Poe Lock (110 feet by 1,200 feet) at the site of the decommissioned Sabin Lock.

Photo Courtesy U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

“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 2 of the project includes rehabilitating the lock’s upstream approach walls to stabilize the existing approach walls. This will allow modern vessels to tie up and wait their turn to pass through the newly-constructed lock. The estimated completion date for Phase 2 is summer 2024.

Phase 3 of the project will involve demolition of the existing Sabin Lock, excavation of bedrock, construction the new lock at the Soo chamber walls and floor, fabrication and installation of miter gates, and installation of mechanical and electrical systems, installation of the innovative hands-free mooring system, rehabilitating downstream approach walls and constructing a new pump well.

USACE says that excavation work done during Phase 3 will include blasting activities, which will be communicated ahead of the date of the demolition. The estimated completion date for Phase 3 is summer 2030.

“Beginning May 30, the Hydro Plant tailrace closed to recreational boaters. The normal schedule for the tailrace is: closed Mondays at 6 a.m. through Saturdays at 6 p.m. and open Saturdays at 6 p.m. through Mondays at 6 a.m.” New Lock Chief Mick Awbrey said. “The closure is necessary to ensure the safety of all boaters and marine construction workers as large barges, cranes and construction boats will be working in the area.”

Joint ventures Kokosing-Alberici and Kokosing, Alberici, Traylor were commissioned to lead the work being done during Phase 2 and 3, respectively.

Previously, Phase 1 of the project 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. Phase 1 concluded in August 2022, which USACE says finished under budget and ahead of schedule.

Currently, USACE says over 88 percent of cargo shipped through the Soo Locks is restricted by vessel size to the Poe Lock.  A 2015 Department of Homeland Security study estimates a six-month Poe Lock closure would temporarily reduce the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) by $1.1 trillion, resulting in the loss of 11 million jobs.

“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 to ensure continued reliability.”

You can learn more about the ongoing project here.