Courtesy:  U.S. Coast Guard Sector Sault Ste. Marie

SAULT SAINTE MARIE, Mich. – U.S. Coast Guard Sector Sault Sainte Marie commenced Operation Taconite this morning in response to developing ice conditions in the commercial ports of Western Lake Superior and along the St Marys River. Before ice impedes commercial navigation, several icebreakers were assigned to the region.

This morning USCGC ALDER was assigned to manage the ice breaking needs of Duluth, MN and Superior, WI. USCGC KATMAI BAY will provide ice breaking services in the St Marys River.  Canadian Coast Guard Ship SAMUEL RISLEY is also lending assistance to the river as they make their way to Thunder Bay, ONT. In the coming days as ice growth expands on the Great Lakes, additional Coast Guard ice breakers will join the operation.

Operation Taconite is the Coast Guard’s largest domestic icebreaking operation, encompassing Lake Superior, St. Marys River, the Straits of Mackinac and all of Lake Michigan. In the coming weeks, certain waterways may close after due consideration is given to the protection of the marine environment, the need for cross channel traffic (e.g. ferries) 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.

Currently there are no channel closures. However the implementation of Operation Taconite does place additional measures on commercial shipping plying the Western Lakes, St. Marys River, and the Straits of Mackinac. These measures include restricting tanker transits to daylight only in the presence of ice, reducing speeds by 2 miles per hour in various locations, and requiring additional voice and position reporting points throughout the operation’s area of responsibility.

The Coast Guard would like to advise all recreational ice users there are currently no channel closures, and to plan their activities carefully, use caution on the ice, and stay away from shipping channels. Recreational users and island residents should stay tuned to local media resources for the status of waterway closures.