The Soo Locks will open 12 hours early next week, starting the 2021-22 Great Lakes shipping campaign in the daylight rather than the usual cover of midnight, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Friday.
The Detroit District's Soo Area Office will open the Poe Lock at noon Wednesday.
The shipping industry requested an early season opening to ensure safety of the vessels, the Army Corps said.
"We believe a (noon) opening … provides a safer timeframe for vessels to transit Whitefish Bay and the St. Mary's River," James Weakley, president of the Lake Carriers' Association, said in the Corps' release. "It facilitates U.S. Coast Guard icebreaking prior to and after the initial lock transits. The efficiency of icebreaking for the first transits is the primary driver for this request."
The Army Corps said it was ahead of schedule on its offseason maintenance. The Soo Locks closed Jan. 15 to usher in a 10-week offseason of maintenance and repair while ice takes over parts of the lakes. Re-watering the Poe lock began earlier this week. The Poe lock, able to accommodate 1,000-foot ore boats, will be the only lock to start the season. It will be followed by the opening of neighboring MacArthur lock in mid-April.
The Soo Locks are located in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, on the St. Marys River, and connect Lake Superior to the rest of the Great Lakes.
Residents and visitors will notice activity next week as two of the four wintering vessels swing into the new campaign. The Paul R. Tregurtha and Burns Harbor will be moving out of the port sometime Wednesday, the Duluth Seaway Port Authority informed the News Tribune on Friday.
The Tregurtha will be leaving with coal from the Midwest Energy Resources Co. dock, with the Burns Harbor is taking on iron ore pellets at BNSF, both docks in Superior.
With a 25-hour transit from the Soo Locks, arriving vessels could be greeting the Twin Ports as soon as Thursday afternoon.