Coast Guard cutter arrives at new home port in Minnesota
DULUTH, Minn. (AP) — The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Spar has arrived at its new home port in Minnesota after undergoing a year of maintenance.
The arrival Wednesday in Duluth comes as members of Congress are pushing for another heavy icebreaker on the Great Lakes. Spar, built in Marinette, Wisconsin, replaces Alder, which left the port last summer for maintenance.
Spar will break up ice for vessels on Lake Superior and northern Lake Michigan.
On its journey following maintenance in Baltimore, Lt. Cmdr. Joel Wright said his crew encountered thick ice in Whitefish Bay on Lake Superior after passing through the Soo Locks at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, as well as ships stuck in ice.
Ice cover on Lake Superior reached its peak in mid-March when nearly 80% of the lake was frozen. Now, just under 40% of the lake is covered in ice. Even so, ice has slowed the movement of vessels following the start of the shipping season on Friday when the Soo Locks opened, Wisconsin Public Radio reported.
“There have been a number of ships that have been trying to cross Lake Superior that have been caught up in the ice and needing a lot of assistance from the Coast Guard, so it definitely is not a good thing when it comes to a business where time is money,” said Jayson Hron, communications director with the Duluth Seaway Port Authority.
The economic impact of delayed shipments moving between the lower and upper lakes is why Eric Peace, vice president of the Lake Carriers’ Association, and others are lobbying for more icebreakers to add to its fleet of nine on the Great Lakes. Peace argues the Coast Guard cutter Mackinaw is the only heavy icebreaker on the Great Lakes that can make it through thicker ice.