Michigan’s Soo Lock reaches construction milestone, preps

Dive Brief:

  • The new Soo Lock on the St. Mary’s River in Michigan, which connects Lake Superior and Lake Huron, has substantially completed its first phase of construction, according to a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers press release. The project received $479 million as a result of a larger $23 billion in federal funding from the USACE.
  • Using a submersible excavator attachment called a hydraulic ripper, Nevada-based contractor Trade West broke up bedrock (primarily sandstone) approximately 6 feet thick over a three quarter mile stretch from the north channel to a 30-foot depth. The channel depth is needed to accommodate large Great Lakes freighters.
  • Work included the removal of around 300,000 cubic yards of material using the ripper, stone grinders and excavator buckets mounted on barges, according to the release. The material removed from the channel was placed onto the Northwest Pier’s west end to act as a windbreak for passing ships.

Dive Insight:

The new lock, first authorized in 1986, went through myriad changes and reauthorizations before construction finally began in 2020. The extended timeline means the initial completion of Phase 1 alone was a major accomplishment for the project. 

“Reaching substantial completion of this first phase of construction is a monumental milestone,” Mick Awbrey, chief of USACE New Lock at the Soo, said in the release.

Two major phases of the project remain for the new lock. 

Phase 2, rehabilitating the upstream approach walls, began in 2021 and will allow modern vessels to tie up and wait in line to pass through the new lock. 

Phase 2 contractor Kokosing-Alberici, a JV of Ohio-based Kokosing Industrial and Missouri-based Alberici Constructors, is on track for completion by summer 2024. 

Phase 3 was awarded July 1. USACE characterized it as the largest and most complicated phase. It will build a new lock chamber and rehabilitate downstream approach walls.

When complete, the project will provide a new lock measuring 1,200 feet long and 110 feet wide to help relieve shipping traffic through the area. 

The Soo Lock job is among a large swath of infrastructure projects that received a share of that $23 billion in funding from the USACE

Government projects, including the Galveston Harbor Channel extension in Texas and the restoration of the Everglades in Florida, have received a large influx of funding following the passage of Congress’ $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.