Coast Guard urges public to remove ice fishing shacks, stay off Kennebec River, Maine

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Thunder Bay breaks ice along the Kennebec River, in this Coast Guard file photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Rob Simpson.

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Thunder Bay breaks ice along the Kennebec River, in this file photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Rob Simpson.

BOSTON — The Coast Guard is urging the public to remove ice fishing shacks and to stay off the Kennebec River Monday as ice breaking operations on the river are planned to begin Tuesday and last through the week.

This operation, typically known as the Kennebec River Spring Breakout, is usually conducted in late March or early April. However, based on the recent ice jam flooding along the river, the Maine Emergency Management Agency and local emergency managers requested that the Coast Guard attempt a mid-winter breakout.

The Coast Guard is sending four ice breakers to the Kennebec River.

The Coast Guard Cutters Bridle, Shackle, and Tackle, 65-foot ice breaking harbor tugs, are currently relocating to the Kennebec River in preparation for the break out. The Bridle is based out of Southwest Harbor, the Tackle out of Rockland, and the Shackle out of South Portland, Maine.

The Coast Guard is also repositioning the Coast Guard Cutter Penobscot Bay from New York to help with the Kennebec River ice breaking effort. The Penobscot Bay is a 140-foot ice breaking tug equipped with a forced air bubbler system and is capable of breaking 27 inches of ice with one foot of snow cover.

“The unknown ice conditions on the Kennebec River will definitely require a coordinated effort from our ice breakers,” said Captain Michael Baroody, commander of Coast Guard Sector Northern New England. “We expect our smaller cutters to reach the river before the Penobscot Bay, and they should be able to start breaking ice and give us a good indication of how thick the ice is.”

Due to the water depth in the northern parts of the river, the Coast Guard plans to use the Penobscot Bay up to the Maine-Kennebec Bridge in Richmond, Maine. The Bridle, Shackle, and Tackle can safely operate in shallower waters and will work farther up the river, possibly all the way to Gardiner, Maine if ice conditions permit.

Coast Guard ice breakers will not be able to reach the existing ice jam on the Kennebec River, but aim to open up water down river to improve the river flow.

Coast Guard ice breaking operations will be visible from the shoreline and bridges that span the Kennebec River.

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