Candice Miller for Congress, Michigan

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Icebreaker keeps commerce moving through waterways

by Candice Miller on February 19, 2014


Friday, February 14, 2014

By Tom Watts For The Voice

The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Hollyhock performed its icebreaking mission along Lake Huron and the St. Clair River Thursday with U.S. Rep. Candice Miller aboard the 225-foot buoy tender.

As huge ice jams moved from Lake Huron through the St. Clair River and out to Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River, Miller wanted to get a first-hand look into the Coast Guard’s icebreaking mission.

“We were in what they call a ‘track’ in the Port Huron area up into Lake Huron – like you’re driving on a street,” said Miller (R-Harrison Township). “They are trying to keep it open a bit so it doesn’t freeze in that area.

“Believe it or not, there is still commercial shipping traffic that is happening.”

Miller, a vice-chairman for the Committee on Homeland Security and chairman for the sub-committee for Border and Maritime Security and representative from the 10th Congressional District, said the Coast Guard cutter has a mission to try and prevent huge chunks of ice from breaking away.

“They don’t want ice to break off and start moving down and cause an ice jam prematurely before Mother Nature wants it to happen,” Miller said Thursday aboard the Hollyhock as it was docked at its Port Huron station along the St. Clair River just south of the Blue Water Bridge separating the U.S. and Canada.

“It’s a remarkable mission,” Miller said. “Interesting to see how they drive, the speeds. It’s a complete science with these icebreaking conditions.”

U.S. Coast Guard Hollyhock Commanding Officer Justin Kimura said the two-hour icebreaking routine on Thursday was a regularly scheduled mission.

“This has been an exceptional winter,” Kimura said aboard the Hollyhock on Thursday. “We got to show her (Rep. Miller) how the ice breaking helps keep commercial traffic moving.”

While the overall navigational system on the Great Lakes is shut down at the Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie in the Upper Peninsula, Kimura said some commercial traffic continues to operate on Lake Huron and the St. Clair River.

“Some domestic companies are still operating,” said Kimura, noting the Coast Guard cutter has multi missions including law enforcement responsibilities.

Still, on Thursday, the Coast Guard’s mission was icebreaking and Miller learned something every step of the way.

“The type of ice we have here is different than ice the Coast Guard deals with in Antarctica,” Miller said. “Fresh water is much harder ice.

“(But) it’s beautiful when they break it,” she said. “It looks like huge sheets of diamonds. Ice is moving all the time, like a living thing.”

Miller, who also sits on the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, said the commerce that moves through the Great Lakes is a huge part of Michigan’s economy.

“Commercial shipping we have is not just for Michigan but the entire Great Lakes region,” Miller said Thursday. “It is an important and critical component part of our economy.”

Miller added of all branches of military service since 9/11, the U.S. Congress has “voted up the U.S.C.G. with a whole umbrella of various missions that they are involved in now.”

“As we say ‘If it’s wet and impossible – send in the Coast Guard – they’re going to take care of us,” said Miller, who thanked “Adm. Midgette and the District 9 fleet stationed on the Great Lakes.”

“I want to reaffirm my commitment to ensuring that they have the resources they need,” she said.

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