Breaking the ice: US Coast Guard Cutter Alder at work on regional waterways

The Alder approaches the Portage Lake Lift Bridge in Houghton. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard)
The Coast Guard Cutter Alder breaks a path through the ice in the Keweenaw Waterway near Houghton Friday. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard)
The crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Alder clears ice from the deck of the cutter as the ship transits through Lake Superior Wednesday. The Alder and other Great Lakes Coast Guard cutters commenced Operation Taconite, the Coast Guard’s largest domestic ice-breaking operation, encompassing Lake Superior, the St. Marys River, the Straits of Mackinac and Lake Michigan. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard)

SAULT STE. MARIE — The U.S. Coast Guard started icebreaking operations Monday in response to developing ice conditions in the commercial ports of western Lake Superior and the St. Marys River.

Operation Taconite is the Coast Guard’s largest domestic ice-breaking operation, encompassing Lake Superior, the St. Marys River, the Straits of Mackinac and Lake Michigan.

As a result, some waterways may close after consideration is given to the protection of the marine environment, waterway improvements, aids to navigation, the need for cross-channel traffic, such as ferries, the availability of icebreakers and the safety of 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 in 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 mph in various locations, and requiring additional voice and position reporting points throughout the area.