The U.S. and Canadian Coast Guards have commenced Operation Coal Shovel, seasonal domestic ice breaking operations in the southern part of Lake Huron, Lake St. Clair, the St. Clair and Detroit River systems, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, starting Thursday, Jan. 3.
The U.S. and Canadian Coast Guard icebreakers work together to prevent ice jams in these vital economic waterways as conditions worsen throughout the winter.
Ice jams can create a disruption to the flow of maritime commerce, so the icebreakers work diligently to flush ice down the river to facilitate transportation of vital winter cargoes. U.S. and Canadian crewmembers coordinate, conduct and track maintenance, provide vessel assistance and conduct flushing operations to minimize the potential for residential flooding. The mission of Operation Coal Shovel is to quickly reopen the Great Lakes maritime transportation system for the movement of commercial vessels that may become beset in the ice.
Mild temperatures last winter precluded the need for icebreaking assets in the lower lakes and the Coast Guard did not conduct Operation Coal Shovel.
As the 2013 Operation Coal Shovel begins, Coast Guard Sector Detroit and the Canadian Coast Guard will continue to monitor and identify declining waterway conditions and potential hazardous ice conditions. Sector Detroit provides command and control for Operation Coal Shovel and may close or open the waterways as ice conditions dictate. Sector Detroit also considers the protection of the marine environment and waterways, aids to navigation, the need for cross channel traffic (e.g. ferries), the availability of icebreakers, and the safety of the island residents who use naturally formed ice bridges for transportation to and from the mainland when making closure decisions.