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Soo Locks open for the season

The Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan

The Soo Locks opened for the 2016 season Friday.

The locks, which allow ships to move between Lakes Superior and Huron, close in the winter for repairs. This year's improvements included a new hydraulic system, anchorage repairs, and replacing the de-watering bulkhead coating for the Poe Lock, according to a press release from The Great Lakes Seaway Partnership. 

Additionally, crews worked to modernize the MacArthur Lock's electrical system. MacArthur Lock closed for part of last summer because of unexpected repairs. 

Vanta Coda, executive director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority, said even with the winter repairs it's difficult to prevent the need for unexpected repairs. 

"You're confident in the work that's been done, but you can never be confident that accidents don't happen," Coda said in an interview. 

For the shipping industry, the start of the season is an exciting time. Coda referred to it as "opening day."

"The opening of the Poe Lock means America can again flex its industrial muscles," James H. I. Weakley, president of The Lake Carriers Association, said in the press release.

This year, discussions continue over whether to build a new lock, one the same size as the Poe Lock. Poe is currently the only lock capable of handling 1,000-foot freighters. 

Representatives from Michigan, as well as Governor Rick Snyder, have urged the Army Corps of Engineers to take on the project. The Corps funded a cost-benefit study on the project this past November. 

"It's a necessary discussion to have. It really needs to be done," Coda said. "It's long overdue."