Coast Guard Great Lakes Ice Breaking Ops Begin Early

Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Photo courtesy of Motor Vessel Presque Isle.

The U.S. Coast Guard commenced Operation Coal Shovel Dec. 15 after colder temperatures caused a rapid development of ice in the eastern Great Lakes. Originally scheduled to begin Dec. 17, Operation Coal Shovel is the ice breaking operation for the southern part of Lake Huron, Lake St. Clair, the St. Clair/Detroit River systems, and lakes Erie and Ontario.

As the 2010-2011 Operation Coal Shovel begins, U.S. Coast Guard Sector Detroit and Canadian coast guard partners will continue our proactive attempts to identify declining waterway conditions and potentially hazardous ice conditions early.  Sector Detroit provides command and control for Operation Coal Shovel, and may close or open the waterways as ice conditions dictate.  Due consideration is given to the protection of the marine environment and waterways, aids to navigation, the need for cross-channel ferry traffic, the availability of icebreakers, and the safety of the island residents who use naturally formed ice bridges for transportation to and from the mainland.

During the 2009-2010 ice season, Operation Coal Shovel managed ice breaking efforts during one of the worst ice conditions experienced on the St. Clair River since 1984.  On three separate occurrences, ice jams created the potential for flood damage to the St. Clair River communities and disrupted the flow of maritime commerce.  Coast Guard icebreakers worked diligently to flush the ice down the river in order to mitigate the threat of flooding and property damage.  In carrying out the mission, U.S. and Canadian vessels coordinated and conducted over 1,500 hours of ice breaking in the eastern Great Lakes.  These actions minimized the potential for residential flooding and quickly reopened the Great Lakes maritime transportation system for the movement of commercial vessels that had become beset in the ice, resulting in continued movement of more than 300,000 tons of vital cargo through the Detroit/St. Clair River system.

The Coast Guard recommends all recreational ice users plan their activities carefully, use caution on the ice, and stay away from shipping channels.  Waterway users and island residents should
 

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