Coast Guard to break ice on Kennebec, Penobscot Rivers

Coast Guard Cutters Shackle and Tackle break ice along the Penobscot River in Brewer, Maine, Feb. 11, 2014. Both 65-foot cutters broke through the nearly 20-inch thick ice to allow open water to flow. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Rob Simpson)

Coast Guard Cutters Shackle and Tackle break ice along the Penobscot River in Brewer, Maine, in this Coast Guard file photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Rob Simpson)

BOSTON — The Coast Guard urges the public to remove their ice fishing shacks as soon as safely possible from the Kennebec and Penobscot Rivers as the Coast Guard begins its annual spring breakout on Wednesday.

Individuals should refrain from being on the river when the tugs are breaking ice.

The Maine Emergency Management Agency submitted an ice breaking request to the Coast Guard for both rivers to reduce the risk of flooding as snow and river ice melts with the warming regional temperatures.

The Coast Guard typically breaks out the rivers in late March or early April, but the recent warming trend has contributed to weakened ice conditions, driving the decision to move the traditional timeline up. The decision to break ice this week was made in consultation with the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Weather Service, the Maine Emergency Management Agency, and multiple local emergency management agencies.

Three 65-foot ice breaking tugs from Maine; the Coast Guard Cutter Shackle from South Portland, the Coast Guard Cutter Tackle from Rockland, and the Coast Guard Cutter Bridle from Southwest Harbor; are expected to begin breaking ice on the Kennebec River on Wednesday. They will be joined by the 140-foot Coast Guard Cutter Penobscot Bay, based out of Bayonne, New Jersey, on Thursday. The ice conditions will dictate how long the Coast Guard spends on the ice breaking effort on the Kennebec River. Based on the water depth, the Penobscot Bay will break up to Richmond, while the three smaller tugs will operate as far north as Gardiner.

Once the Kennebec River is broken out, the Coast Guard will shift operations to the Penobscot River and break ice up to Bangor.

“It’s been a challenging winter so far. The frigid temperatures early in the season really made a lot of ice,” said Lt. Matthew Odom, Chief of the Waterways Management Division for Coast Guard Sector Northern New England. “We’ve been talking to our stakeholders throughout the season and we agreed that now is the time to get that ice broken and flushed out to sea.”

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