The U.S. Coast Guard commenced Operation Taconite this afternoon in response to colder temperatures and the resultant ice growth in the western Great Lakes region. Operation Taconite is the Coast Guard’s largest domestic icebreaking operation, encompassing Lake Superior, St. Mary’s River, the Straits of Mackinac, and northern Lake Huron.
As a result of the operation, certain waterways may close once due consideration is given to the protection of the marine environment, waterway improvements, aids to navigation, the need for cross-channel traffic (e.g. ferries), the availability of icebreakers, and the safety of the island residents, who in the course of their daily business use naturally formed ice bridges for transportation to and from the mainland.
Initially, only one Coast Guard icebreaker will be assigned to Operation Taconite. Coast Guard Cutter Katmai Bay, homeported in Sault Sainte Marie, has been ordered to make its way west towards Duluth, Minn., to provide ice breaking services while Coast Guard Cutter Alder is underway working aids to navigation. Additional Coast Guard ice breakers will join the operation in the coming days and weeks.
Currently, there are no channel closures. However, the implementation of Operation Taconite does place additional measures on commercial shipping plying the western lakes, St. Mary’s River and the Straits of Mackinac. These measures include restricting tanker transits to daylight only in the presence of ice, reducing speeds by two miles per hour in various locations, and requiring additional voice and position reporting points throughout the operation’s area of responsibility.