New Lock at the Soo upstream channel deepening project almost done

Trade West Inc., of Nevada is putting finishing touches to the New Lock at the Soo upstream channel deepening project in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.


“We are waiting on final survey results and anticipate they will show the deepened areas as complete, really only have some punch-list type items, groundskeeping and site cleanup remaining,” said project Supervisory Civil Engineer Rachel Miller.

“The New Lock was first authorized in 1986. That’s 36 years ago,” said New Lock at the Soo Chief Mick Awbrey. “It went through a series of changes and reauthorizations, before the Corps of Engineers was able to begin construction in May 2020. Reaching substantial completion of this first phase of construction is a monumental milestone!”

Using a submergible excavator attachment called a hydraulic ripper, Trade West broke up bedrock approximately six feet thick over a three-quarter mile long stretch, primarily sandstone, from the north channel to a 30-foot depth. The channel depth is needed to accommodate the large Great Lakes freighters.

In all, around 300,000 cubic yards of material, including bedrock and overburden was removed using the ripper, stone grinders and excavator buckets. These operations were all done from barges.

The material removed from the channel was placed onto the Northwest Pier’s west end to act as a windbreak for passing ships. The largest rock weighed 55 tons, about the same weight as an adult humpback whale.

Two major phases of the project remain for the New Lock. Phase 2, rehabilitating the upstream approach walls, began in 2021. Following the winter downtime, season two work began again this year in mid-April. This work stabilizes the existing approach walls to allow modern vessels to tie up and wait their turn to pass through the New Lock. The Phase 2 contractor is Kokosing.

Alberici LLC, a joint venture of Kokosing Industrial of Ohio and Alberici Constructors of Missouri. They are on track for completion by summer 2024.

The Detroit District awarded Phase 3 on July 1. It is the largest and most complicated phase and involves constructing the new lock chamber and rehabilitating downstream approach walls.