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January 16, 2009

Lakes lawmakers press for new icebreaker

Great Lakes lawmakers are hoping that another icebreaker can be added into any kind of infrastructure rebuilding plan that comes out of Congress.

Congresswoman Candice Miller (R-MI) recently joined her Senate and House colleagues of the Great Lakes region in urging Admiral Thad Allen of the United States Coast Guard to increase icebreaking capabilities in the Great Lakes.

"The ability of watercraft to transit the Great Lakes during winter months is imperative to keeping commerce moving and protecting jobs in Great Lakes states. The flow of cargo through our waterways far exceeds a billion dollars during the winter months. Frozen waterways which disrupt or delay cargo can have a detrimental impact on our economy and cause further job loss. Not only are our waterways necessary for our economy, but search and rescue and flood prevention are impaired if we fail to restore water flow to ice clogged rivers," Miller said.

Ice coverage of the Great Lakes varies in severity each winter, but in a typical year ice covers over half of Lake HuronŐs surface. There are currently eight Coast Guard vessels stationed in the Great Lakes available for ice-breaking duties. Only one vessel conducts ice breaking in the St. Clair River, Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River which are vital to the Southeast Michigan region. Many times there are simply not enough vessels to cover the ice clogged areas. In addition to the difficulty blocked water-ways causes for commerce and transportation, the lack of a Coast Guard ice-capable vessel in Lake Ontario leaves the northern maritime border vulnerable.

"While the 225-foot Hollyhock stationed in Port Huron is one of the newest additions to the fleet, it can only be in one place at a time and already has a huge amount of territory to cover." Miller continued, "I believe that more must be done in order to ensure adequate ice breaking capacity in the Great Lakes, and urge the Coast Guard to address this urgent need by purchasing new vessels and deploying them as quickly as possible to the Great Lakes. Congress should also mandate additional funding for this effort in the upcoming economic stimulus package."


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