Coast Guard begins ice breaking operations in the Western Great Lakes

The Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw, a 240-foot heavy icebreaker.

Coast Guard Cutter Mackiaw File Photo

SAULT STE MARIE, Mich. — U.S. Coast Guard Sector Sault Sainte Marie commenced Operation Taconite, the Coast Guard’s largest domestic icebreaking operation, Monday, in response to expanded ice growth in the commercial ports of Western Lake Superior and the St. Marys River.

Operation Taconite encompasses Lake Superior, St. Marys River, Straits of Mackinac, Georgian Bay, Green Bay, northern Lake Huron, and Lake Michigan. Ice breaking operations are based on the following order of priorities: search and rescue, urgent response to vessels in deteriorating weather conditions, exigent community services for flood control and remote communities in immediate need of food, fuel for heat, energy, or and medical assistance, and facilitation of navigation.

In the coming weeks, various commercial waterways may close after due consideration is given to the protection of the marine environment and the safety of island residents who, in the course of their daily business, use naturally formed ice bridges for transportation to and from the mainland.

The authority for Coast Guard domestic ice breaking was created in 1936, by a signed Executive Order 7521 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt directing the U.S. Coast Guard “to assist in keeping open to navigation by means of ice breaking operations, in so far as practicable, and as the exigencies may require, channels and harbors in accordance with the reasonable demands of commerce.”

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