Soo Locks open despite ice

SAULT STE. MARIE — While it may not look quite like spring outside, one signifier of sunnier times has come to pass.

The Poe Lock, which takes seventy percent of the Soo Locks traffic, opened Wednesday after a lot of hard work from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Engineers spent the winter season undertaking numerous maintenance projects on the locks. After a good de–icing, the Edwin H. Gott was able to enter the lock, but its journey wasn’t without challenges.

“Once we got the first ship into the lock, we were ready to go,” said Kevin Sprague, Sault Ste. Marie area engineer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Detroit District. “We sent them up and they got partway up and they got stuck on the ice. Actually, before it was over we had to back that ship back into the lock, bring the lock down to low pool and back the ship back up on the pier so we could get one of our smaller tugs that could work in tighter quarters in there, and we also got a smaller icebreaker up to break that ice up further.”

Sprague expects to face ice–related challenges at the locks at least through April. Despite that, being on the first ship to sail into Lake Superior for the season is an experience to remember.

“When you’re on a ship coming into the locks, especially a thousand–footer, the lock’s 110 feet wide, the ship is 105 feet wide, and from the pilot house, your perspective, it doesn’t look like the ship will actually even fit into the lock. So it’s kind of a unique experience. It’s amazing to watch the skill of the captains when they bring these big ships into such a small area,” added Sprague.

The MacArthur Lock, located beside the Poe, is still closed for maintenance.

[U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photo by Michelle Briggs]