US Army Corps of Engineers
Buffalo District

Soo Locks Maintenance Crew Arrives to Work on Black Rock Lock

Published May 6, 2016
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District maintenance crew dedicated to the Soo Locks, located at Sault Ste. Marie in the upper peninsula of Michigan, have arrived at the Buffalo District to repair a portion of the 100-year old Black Rock Lock, Buffalo, NY.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District maintenance crew dedicated to the Soo Locks, located at Sault Ste. Marie in the upper peninsula of Michigan, have arrived at the Buffalo District to repair a portion of the 100-year old Black Rock Lock, Buffalo, NY.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District maintenance crew dedicated to the Soo Locks, located at Sault Ste. Marie in the upper peninsula of Michigan, have arrived at the Buffalo District to repair a portion of the 100-year old Black Rock Lock, Buffalo, NY.

The maintenance crew, led by Mechanical Engineer Jeff Harrington, is replacing the upper gudgeon bearing on the lower west miter gate. The original gate was constructed in 1914 and is supported solely by this bearing at the top, and the pintle (ball and cup) at the bottom. Each bearing sees about 78,000 pounds of horizontal force, and the pintle supports the full vertical weight of the 156,000 pound gate.

The 15-year-old gudgeon bearing to be replaced is a maintenance free straight bushing, which has a thin low friction liner backed to bronze, with a stainless steel pin through the middle. Due to the 102 year old age of the gates and misalignment over the years, for which the straight bushing is not designed to handle, the bushing’s liner was worn through by the gate pulling the pin at an angle to the bushing.

The project has been progressing about as smoothly as can be expected on such an aging structure.

“After the pin was removed, the crew discovered the bearing was seized to the pin which caused extensive damage to the lower housing. This was repaired with a structural epoxy, which saved the crew several days of extra work,” said Buffalo District Project Manager David Mastriano.

The new bearing is a maintenance free spherical bearing which allows 2 degrees of misalignment. The new custom designed bearing should last for over 25 years.

The crew will also be adjusting the anchorages to correct some sagging of the gate and provide a better miter to limit water leakage. All maintenance work is done with water on the gates to prevent any movement once the pin is removed. The immense weight of the water prevents the gate from moving during important maintenance projects such as these.

The project will take approximately four days working 12 hour shifts to complete; however, impacts to navigation are minimal, as commercial and recreational navigation is light this time of year.

The Black Rock Lock is a crucial link in the vast system of interdependent locks, ports, harbors, navigation channels, and navigation structures that comprise the Great Lakes Navigation System operated by the Corps of Engineers. Maintenance projects such as these are crucial for maintaining navigation on the Great Lakes and its infrastructure as a viable, functional system that is essential to preserving the health and vitality of the region and Nation.