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US Coast Guard Wraps Up Ice-Breaking Operations

The Coast Guard Cutter Alder approaches the Portage Lake Lift Bridge in Houghton, Mich., Dec. 16, 2016, as part of Operation Taconite, the Coast Guard’s largest domestic ice-breaking operation. Coast Guard photo
The Coast Guard Cutter Alder approaches the Portage Lake Lift Bridge in Houghton, Mich., Dec. 16, 2016, as part of Operation Taconite, the Coast Guard’s largest domestic ice-breaking operation. Coast Guard photo

The U.S. Coast Guard has wrapped up ice-breaking operations on the Great Lakes, after clearing the way for ore boats bound from Minnesota's Iron Range to Northwest Indiana steel mills.

Operation Taconite, named after the ore pellets that are burned to make iron in blast furnaces around the ring of steel mills on Lake Michigan's south shore, concluded earlier this week.

The mild winter made it much easier than in previous years.

"As a result of warmer temperatures this winter, ice coverage was less than the multiyear average and had no significant impact on commercial navigation on the Great Lakes," the Coast Guard said in a news release. "Nearly all of the ice that formed has melted."

The U.S. Coast Guard dispatched six cutters to Operation Taconite this winter, and they spent about 2,200 hours clearing ice on the Great Lakes to make way for ore boats and other commercial vessels. The cutters cleared the way for 14 million tons of cargo valued at more than $488 million during the 113-daylong winter season.

"These commodities were used in sustaining industrial production and generating power throughout the Great Lakes region during the winter months," the Coast Guard stated.

In January, U.S. Great Lakes ports shipped 2.2 million tons of iron ore, a 12 percent increase over January 2016, according to the Lake Carriers Association.

The Cleveland-based industry group estimates Great Lakes freighters moved 2.1 million tons of cargo in January, and that iron ore cargo for steel production increased by 120,000 tons.

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