Coast Guard Begins Icebreaking Operations

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The Coast Guard Cutter Alder breaks a path through the ice in the Keweenaw Waterway near 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)

U.S. Coast Guard Sector Sault Sainte Marie commenced Operation Taconite Today in response to developing ice conditions in the commercial ports of Western Lake Superior and the St Marys River. Before ice impedes commercial navigation, icebreakers were assigned to the respective regions.

Operation Taconite is the Coast Guard’s largest domestic icebreaking operation, encompassing Lake Superior, St. Marys River, the Straits of Mackinac and Lake Michigan. As a result of the Operation certain waterways may close once due consideration is given to the protection of the marine environment, aids to navigation, the need for cross channel traffic (e.g. ferries), and the availability of icebreakers.

Today U.S. Coast Guard Cutter ALDER was directed to manage the ice breaking needs of western Lake Superior. U.S. Coast Guard Cutter BISCAYNE BAY was dispatched to provide ice breaking support to the St Marys River. In the coming days and weeks, as ice growth continues on the Great Lakes, additional Coast Guard ice breakers will join the operation.

Currently there are no channel closures. However the implementation of Operation Taconite does place additional measures on commercial shipping plying the Western Lakes, St. Marys River, and the Straits of Mackinac. These measures include restricting tanker transits to daylight only in the presence of ice, reducing speeds by 2 miles per hour in various locations, and requiring additional voice and position reporting points throughout the operation’s area of responsibility. The Coast Guard would like to advise all recreational ice users there are currently no channel closures, and to plan their activities carefully, use caution on the ice, and stay away from shipping channels. Recreational users and island residents should stay tuned to local media resources for the status of waterway closures.

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