Spring break

MARQUETTE – The United States Coast Guard Cutter Biscayne Bay was in Marquette Friday as part of a Lake Superior ice breaking endeavor that began in the St. Marys River, through the Soo Locks and will continue as far west as Duluth, Minn., in the coming days.

“(Thursday) we came through the locks of the St. Marys River … with the Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw and the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Samuel Risley,” said Lt. Thomas Przybyla, commanding officer of the 140-foot Biscayne Bay, based at the St. Ignace Coast Guard station. “We were the first cutters to lock through the locks, so now we’re up here in Lake Superior, breaking ice as needed to facilitate commercial shipping that’s going to start moving soon.”

Originally intending to break ice for Marquette’s ore docks in anticipation of the first ore ship arriving from the Soo Locks on March 25, Przybyla and crew arrived to find that a recent couple days of milder temperatures made the job unnecessary. “Earlier in the week there had been ice in the ore docks up by Presque Isle, so we were going to break those out,” said Przybyla. “But it turns out that the weather took care of that before we got here, so there’s open water there right now.”

Though travel within Lake Superior itself remains open year-round, the Soo Locks are generally closed each year from Jan. 15 to March 25. Before the locks reopen, the U.S. and Canadian Coast Guards pass through them with the responsibility of breaking ice in the shipping lanes and ports for subsequent ore boats and other commercial vessels seeking to move through the Great Lakes.

The Manitowoc is slated to be the first ore boat to enter Marquette for the 2013 shipping season, traveling east across Lake Superior. It’s expected to arrive in Marquette Thursday. The locks at Sault Ste. Marie will open for commercial traffic on March 25 and the first ore boat is expected through the locks and en route to Marquette shortly after.

In the meantime, the Biscayne Bay will continue to travel west, breaking ice as it goes. “We’ll move further into the lake,” said Przybyla, “probably over towards Duluth, possibly the Apostle Islands – as we’re needed- to break ice out there.”

Elsewhere on the lake, icebreaking work is expected clear the way for ferry trips to Mackinac Island from St. Ignace as well as lake freighters, according to a report from the downstate Cheboygan Daily Tribune.

The Coast Guard has warned people to clear Moran Bay of ice fishing shanties and recreational equipment. Icebreaking operations are expected to be undertaken by the cutter Katmai Bay.

Warnings are expected next week for the opening of the South Channel of the Straits of Mackinac, which is needed for Great Lakes shipping.

Zach Jay can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 256.