Engineer Days. Locked and Loaded.

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Engineer Days is an annual celebration of the engineering marvel that is The Poe Lock, The Davis Lock, The MacArthur Lock, and the Sabin Lock. Together, these locks are known as The St. Mary’s Falls Canal, Soo Locks, in Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan.

The beautiful weather brought thousands of people to Soo Michigan’s waterfront district, where several events were taking place. The Soo Locks Engineers Weekend included the Locks Open House, an Arts, Crafts & Family Fun Fair, Cloverland Electric Cooperative Hydroelectic Open House, and U.S. Coast Guard Open House and Rescue Drop demonstration.

Getting up close to the Great Lakes Freighters normally happens from observation decks as part of the St. Mary’s Falls Canal park and information centre. (The Soo Locks Tour Boat was docked there for a time on Engineers Day)

On Engineers Day, the gates open, retractable walkways over the canals, normally used only by The US Army Corps of Engineers and Canal staff are loaded with members of the public, in a steady stream of people wanting to take in the majesty of Great Lakes Freighters, and the feat of engineering; The Soo Locks. Prior to entering this high-secure district, a thorough search of bags took place by Homeland Security Officers.

20160624_115200Numerous organizations were part of the day, including the OPP. Sergeant Michael Wreggitt and Constable Bruno Chiarot were a popular stop for many of the folks arriving to the St. Mary’s Falls Canal Park.

Jim Peach, Assistant Area Engineer (Detroit District) for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, spoke with Saultonline in his office at The Soo Locks, June 24th, 2016 where an open house was taking place in the historical building where he works, as well as the St. Mary’s Falls Canal and Locks.

20160624_123704As Jim Peach said, “the crowds have really mushroomed in the last few years.”

Among the busiest locks system in the world, an average of 80 million tons of cargo moves through the Soo Locks every year. Iron Ore is the most significant cargo carried in terms of value and frequency, with coal coming in as second. The value of iron ore carried through the locks each year is a staggering 500.4 Billion!

20160624_132956The U.S. locks form part of a 1.6 miles (2.6 km) canal formally named the St. Marys Falls Canal. The entire canal, including the locks, is owned and maintained by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, which provides free passage to this day. Great Lakes Freighters are not charged a fee to pass through The Soo Locks. The first phase of the U.S. Soo Locks was completed in May 1855.  It was operated by the State of Michigan until transferred to the U.S. Army in 1881. There is a 21-foot drop between Lake Superior and Lake Huron.

‘People have been coming to Sault Sainte Marie since the 1850s to watch boats passing through the locks.  By the 1880s a public park ran alongside the canal and lock with strolling paths, a fountain and places to sit and watch the boats passing.’ (http://www.lre.usace.army.mil/Missions/Recreation/Soo-Locks-Visitor-Center/)

The next opportunity to get up close and personal with a Great Lakes Freighter is the last Friday of June 2017. Boat nerds unite!

In 1986, The United States Congress authorized construction of a second ‘Poe’ sized lock. In November, 2015, Michigan’s U.S. senators announced that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the White House Office of Management and Budget had agreed to move $1.35 million into a cost-benefit study, taking the first step towards the construction of the new $600-million lock in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.

A wee history of the Cloverland Electric Cooperative (formerly Edison Sault)

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‘Architect, D.J. Teague finalized plans for the hydro plant in 1899. The Romanesque design included three large pavilions and a double-pitched roof to counter balance the length of the plant. This design was the most economical and gave the impression of power, importance and stability. Ownership Edison Sault Electric Company purchased the hydro plant and canal in 1963 from the Union Carbide Company for $1.5 million. An additional $1 million was spent to convert the plant from 25-cycle electricity to 60-cycle electricity. In 1992, the company completed an $8 million modernization and automation project in the plant which enhanced both safety and efficiency. On May 4, 2010, Cloverland Electric Cooperative purchased Edison Sault Electric Company from Wisconsin Energy Corporation.’ (saultstemarie.com/attractions)

Check out more in the gallery!