Soo Locks opening early this year after a mild winter on the Great Lakes

Paul R Tregurtha Soo Locks.jpg
Posted at 8:44 AM, Mar 07, 2024

The Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie will open early for the start of the 2024 Great Lakes shipping season.

According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - Detroit District, the locks will open to marine traffic at 6 p.m. on Friday, March 22.

The shipping industry requested the early opening due to the urging of major steel producers, and it will match the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway.

“Our winter maintenance period is a critical time for us to invest in our aging locks,” Detroit District Commander Lt. Col. Brett Boyle said. “This year, a number of factors worked in our favor that allowed us to safely deliver this critical maintenance and also open to navigation traffic a few days early, with the St. Lawrence Seaway.”

The locks officially closed on Jan. 16 and were set to open later in March. During the closure, crews performing critical repairs and maintenance on the Poe Lock, including inspections, installing lifting lugs, anchorage components and more.

“We worked hard to accelerate work up-front during our annual closure, with crews working extended days and hours to optimize the short time available for critical maintenance and repairs,” Maintenance Branch Chief Nicholas Pettit said. “Due to the hard work of our maintenance crews and some mild weather, we’ve been able to accomplish all required work ahead of schedule.”

The MacArthur Lock, south of the Poe Lock, will remain closed for maintenance until April 24.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, ice coverage on the Great Lakes was extremely low this season, peaking at just 16% on Jan. 22, 2024. Usually, peak is in late February, but record warm temps have kept ice coverage low.