SAULT STE. MARIE – The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Mobile Bay will begin ice breaking operations Monday in the northern portions of the bay of Green Bay. The cutter will establish a track in the ice starting at Rock Island Passage and extending down to the Menominee River.
Mark Dobson with the U.S. Coast Guard in Sault Ste. Marie said it is unusual to start ice breaking operation this early on that portion of the bay. The process may be difficult because of extra thick ice due to the prolonged cold temperatures this winter.
“It might take some work because nobody has been in there in quite some time,” Dobson said. “We have had shipping traveling through Rock Island Pass and up to Escanaba but nobody has come down inside the bay like they are going to have to to get to Marinette.”
Mobile Bay will be joined later in the week by the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Biscayne Bay and Basic Marine’s tug Ericka Kobasic out of Escanaba.
Dobson says the Ericka Kobasic’s role will be to assist the research vessel Sikuliaq that will be conducting engine trials and systems testing for six days on the bay and in Lake Michigan.
“As standing policy with the Coast Guard, we will break the tracks but we don’t necessarily provide a direct on site assistance to every vessel. So, she’s been hired to participate in that and she will probably do the actual one-on-one.”
The Sikuliag is being constructed at Marinette Marine. The $200 million vessel will eventually be operated by the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences in Seward, Alaska.
The U.S. Coast Guard has been keep busy breaking ice on the Great Lakes this winter, more than usual. Mark Dobson with the U.S. Coast Guard in Sault Ste. Marie says shippers fell behind before the Soo Locks closed for the season and the severe winter in the lower Great Lakes has created a demand for products such as salt.
“Right now, we have a vessel running out of Escanaba, the Philip R. Clarke, down into Gary, Indiana, delivering iron ore because they are behind. The steel plants are still needing the product. And, then the people in Wisconsin and Indiana have run out of salt so the ships pick up the slack and make the runs to deliver extra salt this year that we normally wouldn’t be doing,” said Dobson.
And the colder than normal temperatures this winter has produced more ice on the Great Lakes although Dobson says Lake Michigan is not as covered as the other Great Lakes.