U.S.C.G. Begins Breaking Through Ice for Operation Taconite

Operation Taconite has started. 

Ice cutters are already clearing up the Great Lakes.

The ice cutting started Monday after the cold snap caused freezing on parts of the lakes like the St. Mary’s River.

9 &10’s Blayke Roznowski and photojournalist Noah Jurik talked to the Coast Guard about what makes the mission so important.

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Biscayne Bay made its first passes through the St. Mary’s River for Operation Taconite.

They’re breaking ice to make sure shipping freighters can make it through to deliver their shipments.

"A lot of the stuff that you can go to the store and buy is a result of the commerce flowing via ships on the Great Lakes, so keeping that commerce going is very important," Cutter Biscayne Bay commanding officer Capt. Jason Stanko said.

As soon as the temperatures start to drop and the ice starts to form, the coast guard starts to break it up.

"This is a bit earlier then normal and that’s just attributed to that very cold snap," Capt. Stanko said.

For Petty Officer Kyle Ehret, this was his first time out breaking ice.

"It was interesting to see a sheet of ice. I’ve never really seen one before like that," P.O. Ehret said. "Actually seeing how it forms, how we break it up, how the wind shifts and how it affects everything." 

Cutter Biscayne Bay went throughout the St. Mary’s River where the most significant ice formed using the sheer weight of the 670 ton cutter and a bubbler system that breaks it up from underneath.

"The ice conditions aren’t terrible, but we just want to take a look and make sure we can keep some traffic flowing up there with no problems," Capt. Stanko said.

Now, the U.S.C.G. is just looking forward to what the season will bring.

"We’re just ready to go and get it done," P.O. Ehret said. 

Coast Guard cutters will all be on standby now waiting to clear up passageways to make sure people can still get through.