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March 31, 2009

Oberstar legislation seeks second Great Lakes icebreaker

Congressman James L. Oberstar (D. Minn.), Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, has introduced H.R. 1747, the "Great Lakes Icebreaker Replacement Act."

It seeks $153 million to build a sister ship to the Coast Guard icebreaker Mackinaw.

In his floor statement, Chairman Oberstar noted that "we don't have the icebreaking capacity on the Great Lakes that we have had historically" and that during the spring of 2008, U.S.-flag vessels operating on the Great Lakes suffered more than $1.3 million in damages to their hulls because the Coast Guard did not have sufficient assets to keep the shipping lanes open.

Chairman Oberstar also noted that the new icebreaker Mackinaw is a combined buoytender-icebreaker so that it can execute Coast Guard missions year-round. Five of the Coast Guard's icebreakers on the Lakes are close to the end of their useful lives. Further, the buoytenders on the Lakes are having difficulty breaking ice of the thickness that is commonly found on the Lakes.

He said that the design of the Mackinaw is proven and the vessel has shown that is it up to the job of breaking ice on the Lakes during the winter and tending buoys during the spring, summer and fall months.

"Not only will this funding ensure that our nation's vital industries are supplied during the winter," said Chairman Oberstar, "but construction of this icebreaker will create jobs at U.S. shipyards and the related supplier industries at a time when job creation is so vital to an economy losing some 600,000 jobs per month."


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