Operation Taconite Ends for Another Year

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. – The end of Operation Taconite brings the U.S. Coast Guard icebreaking season to a close in the western Great Lakes.

Operation Taconite is the Coast Guard’s largest domestic icebreaking operation. U.S. Coast Guard Sector Sault Ste. Marie is responsible for the icebreaking operation which encompasses Lake Superior, the Straits of Mackinac, northern Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. This year, the Ninth Coast Guard District decided to consolidate control of operations in Lakes Michigan and Superior under a single command at Sector Sault Ste. Marie. The District made this change due to Sector Sault Ste. Marie’s 24 hour staffing and ability to monitor vessel traffic and maintain communications.

U.S. Coast Guard cutters MACKINAW, ALDER, HOLLYHOCK, MOBILE BAY, NEAH BAY, KATMAI BAY, and BISCAYNE BAY operated as a team, under the direction of Sector Sault Ste. Marie, who corresponded with the industry and Canadian partners, to bring about another successful icebreaking season. Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City enhanced the mission’s effectiveness by performing 18 ice reconnaissance flights.

During the peak of the icebreaking season, icebreakers operated in 36 inches of snow covered ice and sometimes encountered waterways blocked by up to 12 feet of ice. The cutters combined efforts to assist 119 commercial vessels requiring assistance. The cutters spent more than 1700 hours underway establishing and maintaining tracks for the safe navigation of barges carrying fuel oil or heating products; breaking Lakers free from their icy moorings to begin a new shipping season; and flushing ice from ferry routes, which allowed daily commuters to continue their transits from the various islands to their mainland destinations.

Each year as winter comes to an end, so does Operation Taconite. Sector Sault Ste. Marie brought Operation Taconite to an end once it determined that commercial vessels were able to transit throughout the St. Mary’s River and western Great Lakes without the assistance of Coast Guard icebreakers. The waterways, once covered in ice and snow, have given way to open water, which is a result of warming temperatures and the tremendous efforts of the U.S. Coast Guard.

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