Coast Guard begins ice breaking operations in western Great Lakes

The Coast Guard Cutter Katmai Bay, a 140-foot ice-breaking tug operating as part of Operation Taconite, which is the ice breaking operation for the northern Great Lakes. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Daniel R. Michelson)

The Coast Guard Cutter Katmai Bay, a 140-foot ice-breaking tug operating as part of Operation Taconite. (U.S. Coast Guard file photo by Daniel R. Michelson)

SAULT STE MARIE, Mich. – U.S. Coast Guard Sector Sault Sainte Marie commenced Operation Taconite, Wednesday, in response to expanded ice growth in the commercial ports of western Lake Superior.

As one of two ice breaking operations that support the Great Lakes, 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 and homeland security; urgent response to vessels; exigent community services, which includes ice breaking for flood control and to assist icebound communities in immediate need of food, fuel for heat or energy, 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 Executive Order 7521 signed 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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