Monday, December 14, 2009

U.S. Coast Guard begins breaking ice

Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. - Colder temperatures and the resulting development of ice in the Great Lakes shipping channels prompted the U.S. Coast Guard to commence Operation Taconite on Sunday afternoon.

The icebreaking operation encompasses Lake Superior, the St. Marys River, the Straits of Mackinac, Lake Michigan and the northern portion of Lake Huron. Initially only one Coast Guard ice breaker — USCGC Alder — out of Duluth, Minn. will be the only vessel involved establishing tracks through the rapidly building ice from Duluth on into Superior Wisc. The Coast Guard has indicated that additional ice breakers will join the operation in the coming weeks and days to keep shipping traffic moving throughout the region.

The Coast Guard announced that there are currently no channel closures. However, the implementation of Operation Taconite does place additional restriction on commercial shipping in the western lakes, St. Marys River and the Straits of Mackinac. Those restrictions may include limiting travel to daylight hours in the presence of ice, reduced speeds, and additional voice and reporting points in certain areas.
The Coast Guard will keep the shipping channels open through mid-January to allow commercial traffic to move throughout the Great Lakes. Additional ice breaking activities will be conducted throughout the winter as the Coast Guard keeps the channel open for certain vessels that make deliveries throughout the year.
Recreational ice users and island residents should stay tuned for local media resources for the status of waterway closures ands are urged to plan carefully and use caution before venturing out onto the ice.