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Coast Guard’s Biscayne Bay starts icebreaking operations in Great Lakes

By TANDA GMITER | mlive.com | Published: December 24, 2020

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LAKE SUPERIOR, Mich. (Tribune News Service) — The 140-foot U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Biscayne Bay is the first icebreaker of the season to begin work on the Great Lakes.

It was deployed to western Lake Superior this week to begin Operation Taconite, which is the United States’ biggest domestic icebreaking operation and covers the northwestern expanse of the Great Lakes region.

The crew of the Biscayne Bay will start icebreaking in Duluth, Minn., and Superior, Wis., as well as Thunder Bay, Ontario, the Coast Guard said.

“As ice growth expands on the Great Lakes, additional Coast Guard ice breakers will join the operation,” the military said. “The operation encompasses Lake Superior, St. Marys River, the Straits of Mackinac, Georgian Bay, and all of Lake Michigan.”

In a YouTube video posted on Wednesday, you can see the Biscayne Bay passing Barker’s Island near the Wisconsin-Minnesota border.

As we get deeper into winter, Operation Taconite’s goal is to keep ports and shipping lanes clear across the Great Lakes. Like others of its class, the Biscayne Bay was engineered with a “bubbler system” to help make it easier to break up ice and not put so much pressure on its hull. The cutter’s home port is Coast Guard Station St. Ignace.

When not needed for icebreaking, the Biscayne Bay is used for search and rescue operations as well as law enforcement work.

During the winter, commercial ships in the Operation Taconite area might have to follow some additional rules, the Coast Guard said.

“These measures may include restricting tanker transits to daylight in the presence of ice, reducing speeds by 2 miles per hour in specified locations to reduce incidental ice breaking, and requiring additional voice and position reporting points throughout the operation’s area of responsibility.

“The Coast Guard recommends all recreational ice users plan their activities carefully, dress appropriately, 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 regional waterway closures.”

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