Great Lakes Coast Guard icebreakers operating as 2010-2011 ice breaking season begins

In this file photo, the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Morro Bay, a 140-foot ice breaking tug home ported in New London, Conn., approaches Kingston, N.Y., to clear ice from shipping channels for commercial traffic, such as home heating oil barges, on the Hudson River, Feb. 11, 2009. The Morro Bay serves a multitude of missions in the waterways of Long Island Sound, New York and New Jersey, such as search and rescue operations, ice breaking, and homeland security. (U.S. Coast Guard photo/Petty Officer Seth Johnson)

USCG Cutter Morro Bay file photo

CLEVELAND – The Ninth Coast Guard District is taking steps to safeguard the people and property of the Great Lakes as the 2010-2011 ice breaking season begins.

The two traditional Great Lakes ice breaking operations are Operation Taconite, which commenced on Dec. 6, and Operation Coal Shovel, which is scheduled to commence on Friday.

Operation Taconite, under the control of U.S. Coast Guard Sector Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., encompasses Lake Superior, the St. Marys River, the Straits of Mackinac, Lake Michigan and northern Lake Huron. Operation Coal Shovel, under the control of U.S. Coast Guard Sector Detroit, encompasses southern Lake Huron, St. Clair/Detroit River systems, and Lakes Erie and Ontario, and includes the St. Lawrence Seaway.

The Coast Guard conducts domestic ice breaking operations for four basic purposes: search and rescue, urgent response to vessels, exigent community service requests, and the facilitation of navigation to meet the reasonable demands of commerce.

Exigent community service requests include flood control and opening channels to icebound communities or breaking ice for the ferries that serve them in order to ensure critical supplies of food or heating oil or access to medical assistance is maintained.

Operations Taconite and Coal Shovel ensure the most efficient movement of vessels through the entire Great Lakes region. Based on ice conditions, assets are dedicated to specific areas in coordination with our international partners and commercial ice breaking services.

To ensure the highest state of readiness and the Coast Guard’s ability to complete this critical mission, an additional icebreaker from the First Coast Guard District, U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Morro Bay, a 140-foot ice breaking tug, homeported in New London, Conn., has been temporarily assigned to the Great Lakes region. Morro Bay will augment the other Coast Guard icebreakers that call the Great Lakes home.

Morro Bay arrived in Cleveland on Dec. 10.

“We are taking all steps necessary to ensure we are ready to provide the best level of service and keep the fleet moving through the ice,’ said Cmdr. Kevin Dunn, chief of waterways management for the Ninth Coast Guard District. “We are ready to respond to emergencies and provide assistance to those who may be effected by ice or flooding.”

The Coast Guard encourages waterway users to plan their activities carefully, use caution on the ice, and stay away from shipping channels. Owners of facilities on the ice should move them safely onshore or sufficiently away from the shipping channels. The Coast Guard strongly advises pedestrians, fishers and snowmobilers to leave the ice when they see the icebreaker in the immediate vicinity. Recreational users and island residents should stay tuned to local media resources for the status of waterway closures.

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