Coast Guard ice breakers make progress on the Penobscot River

Coast Guard Cutter Tackle file photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class LaNola Stone

Coast Guard Cutter Tackle file photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class LaNola Stone

BOSTON – Coast Guard ice breakers continue to steadily break ice in the Penobscot River Thursday to help the broken ice drift down river and out to sea.

The Rockland-based Coast Guard Cutter Tackle, and Southwest Harbor-based Coast Guard Cutter Bridle crews have been working in tandem to break the ice during the high tide, so when the tide shifts, the outgoing current will carry it down river.

The ice-breaking efforts are in support of Operation Reliable Energy for Northeast Winters (RENEW), the Coast Guard’s region-wide effort to ensure Northeast communities have the security, supplies, energy, and emergency resources they need throughout the winter.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the cutters made it about three miles south of the Bangor area, and plan to break ice Thursday and Friday to continue opening up the river.

“It has certainly been a unique season so far with the frigid temperatures earlier in the month, and then the rapid warm-up and rain over the weekend,” said Capt. Michael Baroody, commander of Coast Guard Sector Northern New England.

“Based on the slightly warmer temperatures this week, we are trying to get our cutters up the river as far as possible to reduce the ice jam flooding potential. The thickness of the ice made it necessary for us to send two cutters up, so we don’t run the risk of one getting stuck in the ice alone.”

Coast Guard ice breakers have responded to 12 specific ice breaking requests so far this year, ranging from ferry routes to commercial fishing fleets to waterfront facilities receiving tank ship deliveries. They are also continually breaking ice across the state to keep their search and rescue stations capable of responding.

The Coast Guard also received a request from the Maine Emergency Management Agency Wednesday afternoon to break out the Kennebec River due to the ice jam flooding they have experienced this year. Due to the water depth on the Kennebec, the Coast Guard would not be able to reach the ice jam, but would open up water down river to improve the river flow. Based on the expected thickness of the ice on the Kennebec River, the Coast Guard is considering bringing up a larger ice breaker to support that effort.

“We are always trying to stay a step ahead of the unpredictable winter weather,” said Capt. Baroody. “Our crews are definitely facing a big challenge and we will continue to openly discuss our planned operations and any concerns that may develop with all of our stakeholders.”

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