U.S. and Canadian Icebreakers to work together on St. Clair River

by Hans | February 22nd, 2010

The U.S. and Canadian Coast Guards are scheduled to conduct ice breaking operations in the St. Clair River, beginning at approximately 10 a.m., Monday Feb. 22, in order to mitigate possible flood activity due to a nine-mile long ice jam there, and address low-water levels on Lake St. Clair.

U.S. Coast Guard cutters involved include the Neah Bay, Mobile Bay and Mackinaw. Also participating will be the Canadian Coast Guard Cutter Samuel Risley.

“This year we have seen a large amount of ice in the river system; this ice stacks up and stops the natural flow of water, which may be contributing to lower water levels in Lake St. Clair and higher risk of flooding in communities along the St. Clair River above the jam,” said Cmdr. Joseph Snowden, Ice Officer at U.S. Coast Guard Sector Detroit. “We are working closely with our international partners to address these risks.”

These joint icebreaking operations with the Canadian Coast Guard will include the North and South Channels of the St. Clair River and have the potential to impact the operation of the Harsens Island Ferry. Residents of Harsens Island should make appropriate preparations should the three or four day icebreaking operation interrupt ferry service.

“While we understand Harsens Island residents’ annual frustrations with the temporary winter-time interruptions of ferry services, these ice breaking operations are critical to preventing flooding to the many communities along both sides of the St. Clair River,” said Cmdr. Kevin Dunn, Chief of Waterways Management for the Ninth Coast Guard District. “These operations are also necessary to restore water flow to Lake St. Clair, which has experienced a dramatic drop in water levels over the past few days.”

That drop in water levels on Lake St. Clair has threatened many marinas along the lakefront. As a precaution, individuals are asked to remain clear of ice breaking operations in order to avoid injury, property loss or damage. The U.S. Coast Guard provides ice breaking services for search-and-rescue, other emergency operations, flood mitigation and the facilitation of navigation to meet the reasonable demands of commerce.

The Coast Guard conducts two major operations during the icebreaking season, entitled Coal Shovel and Taconite, to ensure the most efficient movement of vessels through the entire Great Lakes region. Coal Shovel, under the control of Coast Guard Sector Detroit,  encompasses southern Lake Huron, St. Clair/Detroit River systems, and Lakes Erie and Ontario, and includes the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Coast Guard Cutters Neah Bay and Mobile Bay are 140-foot icebreaking tugs, homeported in Cleveland, Ohio and Sturgeon Bay, Wis., respectively. Mackinaw is a 240-foot icebreaker homported in Cheboygan, Mich.

Source: BYM Marine /  Foto: J. Gallacher

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