Coast Guard begins ice breaking operation in western Great Lakes

Great Lakes Coast Guard NewsCLEVELAND — The U.S. Coast Guard began ice breaking operations Wednesday as part of Operation Taconite, in response to colder temperatures and ice growth in the western Great Lakes region.

Coordinated by Coast Guard Sector Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., Operation Taconite is the Coast Guard’s largest domestic ice breaking operation, encompassing lakes Superior and Michigan, the St. Mary’s River, the Straits of Mackinac, and northern Lake Huron.

A second ice breaking operation, Operation Coal Shovel, will begin at a later date. Operation Coal Shovel takes place in the eastern Great Lakes region, including lakes Erie and Ontario, the Detroit and St. Clair rivers, Lake St. Clair, and southern Lake Huron.

The Coast Guard is dedicated to ensuring a safe, efficient and navigable waterway system that supports domestic commerce and international trade, while at the same time mitigating economic risks caused by ice in the maritime environment. The Coast Guard works closely with the Canadian Coast Guard and maritime industry representatives to ensure critical shipping paths are open for transit.

Domestic ice breaking is normally conducted for four basic purposes: search and rescue, urgent response to vessels beset by ice, assisting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with community service requests (including flood relief), and facilitation of navigation to meet the reasonable demands of commerce.

As a result of the operation, certain waterways may close after consideration is given to the protection of the marine environment, waterway improvements, aids to navigation, the need for cross-channel traffic (e.g. ferries) and the availability of icebreakers. Another important consideration is the safety of residents of Great Lakes islands and other remote locations, who, in the course of their daily business, use naturally formed ice bridges for transportation to and from the mainland.

The Coast Guard would like to advise all recreational ice users that 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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