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Soo lock construction shifts into 24/7 gear

Approach channel dredging continues with lock scheduled for 2030 opening

The pace of construction of a new commercial navigation lock at Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. is quickening.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers report that phase one construction of the new lock has shifted to around-the-clock operations, as of Sept. 8.

Trade West Construction is deepening the north channel of the decommissioned Sabin Lock to a depth of 30 feet (more than nine metres) by removing sediment from the almost two-kilometre long approach channel from the Lake Superior side.

The Nevada contractor began deepening the channel in early June.

The dredged material will be deposited on a pier and used to form a break wall for the new lock, said the Corps of Engineers' Detroit office.

The dredging is the first of a massive three-phase US$922.4-million transportation infrastructure project that will take 10 years to complete.

When finished in 2030, the new lock will be able to handle the largest commercial vessels on the Great Lakes and provide a safeguard against a potential breakdown of the adjacent Poe Lock, the largest lock in the Seaway chain, which opened to navigation in 1969.

Only two of the four American locks are operational.

The new lock will be built on the site of the currently idled Davis and Sabin locks, which were built during and just after the First World War. The third lock, the smaller MacArthur Lock, was built during the Second World War.

The Soo Locks are considered strategically important. Ninety per cent of the United States' iron ore used in steel production moves through the locks.