Operation Fall Retrieve nearly finished as 2013/2014 ice-breaking season begins

CLEVELAND — As the Coast Guard 9th District’s Operation Fall Retrieve approaches completion throughout the Great Lakes, the agency, in partnership with Canadian and commercial entities, has begun ice-breaking operations as part of Operation Taconite in the western Great Lakes — lakes Superior and Michigan, the St. Marys River, the Straits of Mackinac, and northern Lake Huron.

Operation Fall Retrieve is 85 percent completed and is expected to be completed next week.

The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw makes an approach to the Mackinac Bridge Lighted Bell Buoy 1 in the Straits of Mackinac, Dec. 11, 2013. An early start to the ice season means the crew of Mackinaw has to race to complete Operation Fall Retrieve before the ice floes set firm and damage the navigational buoys. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Lt. j.g. Jenifer Lopez.

The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw makes an approach to the Mackinac Bridge Lighted Bell Buoy 1 in the Straits of Mackinac, Dec. 11, 2013. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Lt. j.g. Jenifer Lopez.

Coast Guard Sector Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., commenced Operation Taconite Friday to prevent developing ice from hindering commercial navigation in the ports of Duluth, Minn., Superior, Wis., and Thunder Bay, Ontario.

Coast Guard Sector Detroit has not yet commenced Operation Coal Shovel, which is the ice-breaking operation in the eastern Great Lakes region — lakes Erie and Ontario, the Detroit and St. Clair rivers, Lake St. Clair, and southern Lake Huron. Operation Coal Shovel commences once ice development in the region requires it.

“Operation Taconite has been officially kicked off, the earliest in recent history,” said Lt j.g. Katherine Pierson, Coast Guard 9th District Aids-to-Navigation and Domestic Ice Division. “We have already tasked a few of our cutters with breaking ice in Lake Superior and the St. Marys River, and several more units are fastidiously removing buoys as the lakes are experiencing rapid ice growth.”

Operations Taconite and Coal Shovel constitute the country’s largest domestic ice-breaking operations.

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 such as flood relief, and facilitation of navigation to meet the reasonable demands of the maritime industry. Other emergency services include the opening of channels to icebound communities to ensure critical supplies of food, heating oil, and access to medical care.

When both ice-breaking operations are up and running, there will be nine district icebreakers and several Canadian Coast Guard icebreakers that can provide assistance during the 2013/2014 ice-breaking season.

As a result of the ice-breaking operations, 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 use naturally formed ice bridges for transportation to and from the mainland.

The Coast Guard advises all recreational ice users to plan their activities carefully, use caution on the ice, and stay away from shipping channels. Throughout the ice-breaking season, the Coast Guard will attempt to keep the public informed about ice-breaking operations by way of outreach to local media.

Click the photo above for more from Operation Fall Retrieve.


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