Music and NPR News for Central and Northern Michigan
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Local/Regional News

Take This Job and Love It: Soo Locks Engineer

Sara Byks
Beverly McCreedy at Soo Locks

Seven thousand ships pass through the Soo Locks each year carrying more than eighty millions pounds of cargo. Whether it is small recreational boats or thousand foot freighters, every boat that passes through the locks does so with the help of engineers.


Beverly McCreedy is a Civil Engineer at the Soo Locks. She gets a taste of everything - working on construction, maintenance, and electrical projects.


“On any given day I don’t necessarily know what is going to come up. I could be working on anything from structural design work for lock gates, we have a hydro power plant here sometimes it is things to keep their building up and running. I’ve been involved with some electrical upgrade projects. It is just a huge amount of variety in projects.”


Credit Sara Byks
Soo Locks from the tower

Here’s a snapshot of her job -  


Beverly works Monday through Friday, from 8 A.M. until 5 P.M. She’s worked at the locks for the past five years but has been an engineer for the past thirty.


Earlier this year she was promoted to technical engineer. She said she’s top tier employee, which puts her pay around eighty thousand dollars a year.


Beverly works in the maintenance department, and her main job is to fix problems. She said around ninety percent of her time is dedicated to planning.


During the navigational period, she investigates problems in the locks and evaluates what needs repairs, she prioritizes the work and develop the logistics for each repair.


Beverly said the locks have a lot going on year round, but she’s busiest between January and March, during the non-navigational season. That’s when the locks are drained, covered, and heated so maintenance crews can do repairs.


She said her favorite thing is how so many moving parts work together to keep the locks moving.

“There are so many unseen parts and people doing jobs that you don’t think about until you actually work here and you realize what an involved operation it is to make everything work right.”

Credit Sara Byks
Beverly McCreedy by a boat passing through the locks

Beverly said visitors most often see lock operators, putting the lines on the boats and open the gates. But there are so many other workers that are behind the scenes. She says the reason the locks are able to work is because of how all of the parts work together.


Currently the Soo Locks send around 86 percent of boats through the huge Poe lock. For every ten boats that come through the Soo, nine of them are carrying iron ore that is used in businesses across the United States.


According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security if the Poe Lock closes it could impact ten million jobs across the country and at least two million jobs internationally.


Beverly said the Soo may soon be starting a new,big project. Right now the federal government is deciding whether or not to  appropriate money to build a new lock in Sault Ste Marie. One as big as the Poe. The project is estimated to cost close to one billion dollars and will take around a decade to complete.


If the Soo gets funding for a new lock, construction will pick up over the next decade and Beverly will have a lot more to love about her job.