Louisville supports regional effort to design New Lock at the Soo

Published Jan. 13, 2020

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Louisville District is playing a key role in a regional effort to design the New Lock at the Soo in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. 

Louisville District engineers, along with engineers from Detroit, Huntington, Nashville, and Pittsburgh districts and the Inland Navigation Design Center (INDC), are joining together to design the mega-project for the Detroit District, which operates and maintains the Soo Locks Facility. 

“We have a team of more than 20 high performing engineers, geologists, architects and technicians in the Louisville District working on this mega-project.  Those folks have the technical expertise and many years of experience designing similar inland navigation projects. The Soo locks are a critical component in our nation’s infrastructure, and we are honored to play a role in this regional effort to ensure that the Great Lakes Navigation System is reliable for years to come,” said Jeremy Nichols, Louisville District Navigation Design Section chief. “We are thankful for the opportunity to serve the Detroit District, the Soo Area Office and the INDC.”

The project will construct one larger 1,200-foot long x 110-foot wide lock chamber on the site of the existing Davis and Sabin Locks. Construction of the New Lock at the Soo, with dimensions equal to the existing Poe Lock, will provide much needed resiliency in the Great Lakes Navigation System. 

According to the Detroit District, approximately 80 million tons of commercial commodities pass through the Soo Locks annually, with almost 90 percent of that tonnage restricted to the Poe Lock. Having full redundancy at the Soo Locks safeguards the nation's economy.

“Nearly all domestically produced high-strength steel used to manufacture products like automobiles and appliances is made with iron ore that transits through the Poe Lock,” said Mollie Mahoney, Detroit District senior project manager. “The New Lock at the Soo would eliminate the single point of failure in our nation’s iron ore supply chain.” 

Phase 3 of the approximately $922 million project involves construction of the new lock chamber and is currently scheduled for contract award in summer 2021 with construction work to begin as early as 2022. 

“We are on an accelerated schedule to submit the 70 percent design package by April 2020,” said Jeremy Nichols. “This is a very aggressive design schedule. In order to meet that schedule, the design team has been using various 3D modeling packages such as Revit and Inventor. Physical scaled models produced by a 3D printer have also been used. By designing this mega-project in a 3D virtual environment, it allows continuous communication and collaboration as well as exceptional teamwork with other districts and the end users at the Soo Area Office.”

The Louisville District team has the lead for geotechnical, geology, civil engineering, architecture and CADD/BIM modeling of the project. Additionally, the Louisville District is providing structural engineering support to the Nashville District for design of the cofferdam, wide wall monoliths, dewatering, chamber floor and buildings.

“This is truly a team effort both in-house and across various districts and offices,” Nichols said. “Louisville District’s engineers, geologists, architects and technicians are supporting many facets of this project, which has to work in conjunction with the designs from our counterparts in other districts. The level of collaboration to pull off this massive undertaking, and to do it all under an accelerated schedule, is unprecedented.”

The multi-district design requires lots of close coordination/communication. “The INDC has assembled an awesome team from districts and offices across LRD and MVD. The benefit of the INDC is that they pull together subject matter experts and team members with recent experience designing navigation locks to create a truly world class design team,” Mahoney said.

For more information on the New Lock at the Soo project visit: https://www.lre.usace.army.mil/About/Highlighted-Projects/New_Soo_Lock/