U.S. Coast Guard Kicks Off Great Lakes Ice-Breaking Operation

The Coast Guard Cutter Alder approaches the Portage Lake Lift Bridge in Houghton, Mich., Dec. 16, 2016. The Alder and other Great Lakes Coast Guard cutters commenced Operation Taconite, the Coast Guard’s largest domestic ice-breaking operation, encompassing Lake Superior, the St. Mary’s River, the Straits of Mackinac and Lake Michigan, Dec. 19, 2016. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)
The Coast Guard Cutter Alder approaches the Portage Lake Lift Bridge in Houghton, Mich., Dec. 16, 2016. U.S. Coast Guard Photo

The U.S. Coast Guard on Monday kicked off its annual icebreaking operation in the Western Great Lakes after a cold arctic blast caused developing ice conditions in the commercial ports of western Lake Superior and the St Marys River.

The annual operation, called Operation Taconite, is the Coast Guard’s largest domestic ice-breaking operation, encompassing Lake Superior, the St. Mary’s River, the Straits of Mackinac, and Lake Michigan.

On Monday, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Alder, homeported in Duluth, Minnesota, was directed to manage the ice-breaking needs of western Lake Superior. The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Biscayne Bay, homeported in St. Ignace, Michigan, was dispatched to break ice in the St Marys River. As ice growth continues on the Great Lakes in the coming days and weeks, additional Coast Guard icebreakers will join the operation.

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The Coast Guard said currently there are no channel closers however with Operation Taconite underway there are now additional measures on commercial shipping in region. These measures include restricting tanker transits to daylight only in the presence of ice, reducing speeds by two miles per hour in various locations, and requiring additional voice and position reporting points throughout the area.

“As a result of the operation, certain waterways may close after due consideration is given to the protection of the marine environment, waterway improvements, aids to navigation, the need for cross-channel traffic, such as ferries, the availability of icebreakers, and the safety of island residents, who in the course of their daily business use naturally-formed ice bridges for transportation to and from the mainland,” The U.S. Coast Guard said.