Springtime in Duluth is signaled by the return of the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Alder, which began its annual icebreaking activities, dubbed “Operation Taconite,” Tuesday morning in the Duluth-Superior harbor.
Every March the Alder helps clear channels through the ice for the upcoming shipping season, so that 1,000-foot long ships loaded with taconite, coal, limestone and other cargo can maneuver without getting stuck.
“Given how relatively warm the conditions have been so far this early spring, there was ice up to almost a foot thick, which was a little surprising,” said Jayson Hron with the Duluth Seaway Port Authority, who rode aboard the ship for its first day of operations.
“It was the first day of fracturing those shipping lanes and starting to open things up throughout the harbor,” said Hron. “The folks at the Coast Guard will continue to maintain those channels as needed, also in conjunction with the local tug boats that can help on that effort as well.”
He said the Coast Guard is also responsible for maintaining the ports in Two Harbors and Silver Bay, and may also help clear ice in the harbor in Thunder Bay, Ontario.
The shipping season on the Great Lakes begins March 25 when the Soo Locks open between Lake Superior and lakes Huron and Michigan.
High water levels have delayed the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway on the eastern side of the lakes by two weeks.
Source: MPR News