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Sault Ste. Marie Spring has officially arrived in Michigan, at least on the calendar. To the U.S. Coast Guard, it s still winter and Operation Taconite is underway.
Its mission is to break up the ice fields of the upper Great Lakes, where the duty of opening shipping lanes for vessels falls to the Coast Guard and its only heavy icebreaker, the USCGC Mackinaw.
This year has not been as challenging as the past couple of years; there is less ice, said Commander Vasilios Tasikas of the USCGC Mackinaw. Whitefish Bay has the most ice, and we will escort the first vessels through this weekend. In an average year, the Coast Guard breaks ice for 120 days, helping half a billion dollars in commodities maneuver through the Great Lakes.
It s very gratifying to do what we do, Tasikas said. But concerns over keeping the state s commodities moving following recent harsh winters have renewed interest in having a second heavy icebreaker join forces with the Mackinaw to clear the frigid waterways.
Two years ago, then President Barack Obama signed into law the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2015, appropriating $17.5 billion for Coast Guard activities. It provides funds for the design and construction of an icebreaker that is capable of buoy tending and to enhance icebreaking on the Great Lakes. But funding for it is on hold as the new Trump administration pours over financial appropriations for all facets of government. U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, a member of the Commerce Committee s Subcommittee of Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard, is pushing, along with U.S. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, for another heavy icebreaker.
It is essential that Congress provides the men and women of the Coast Guard with the resources they need to keep open shipping lanes in the Great Lakes, wrote Peters and Stabenow in a letter to the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the Coast Guard.
Mathew Paxton, president of the Shipbuilders Council of America, spoke to the House subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation in 2016, stating it would take years to build a new polar icebreaker but less time to complete a new Great Lakes icebreaker. It took 28 months to complete the construction of the Mackinaw in 2005 in Marinette, Wisconsin. The U.S. Coast Guard operates nine icebreaking-capable cutters on the Great Lakes, including heavy icebreaker USCGC Mackinaw. A home port for a new heavy icebreaker could be a financial boon to the city that is selected. Mackinaw City, Charlevoix and several other ports have expressed interest in becoming that port.
Cheboygan County District One commissioner Chris Brown of Cheboygan, where the Mackinaw is stationed, said the icebreaker would have at least a $7 million to $9 million impact on the chosen community
The ship has the potential of up to 40 families living wherever the new vessel is stationed, Brown said.
Low risk of slowdowns
Whitefish Bay, which is on the eastern end of the southern shore of Lake Superior, has eight inches of ice with some windrows up to 28 inches this season. According to Scott Sutherland, meteorologist for the Weather Network, there is near-record low ice cover on the Great Lakes this season, which is partly caused by the warmest water temperatures in 16 years. Ice coverage has averaged around 12 percent of the Great Lakes, with the North Channel on Lake Huron, Whitefish Bay on Lake Superior and Green Bay on Lake Michigan all holding the most ice.
The conditions are a dramatic change from only a few years ago. The heavy ice of the winters of 2013-15 was legendary, with freighters stuck for days in Lake Superior and Lake Huron, waiting for escort through the ice. The heavy ice winter of 2013-14, when losses were estimated at nearly 7 million tons, caused two steel mills and coal power plants to reduce production at an estimated loss of nearly 4,000 jobs and $700 million in revenue. The winter of 2014-15 saw the Great Lakes almost entirely covered in thick ice, causing shipping losses of 3.2 million tons, according to the offices of Peters and Stabenow, costing $355 million in lost revenue and nearly 2,000 jobs.
But the shipping season this year should not have any slowdowns. Five Coast Guard vessels the Biscayne Bay, Katmai Bay, Morro Bay, Mobile Bay and the 240-foot USCGC Mackinaw were preparing the St. Mary s River and the Soo Locks this past week by cutting lanes through the ice fields for the shipping season, which officially began at midnight Friday. The Mackinaw was the first vessel through the Poe Lock on March 15. The heavy cutter freed the ice-bound lock and traveled north toward Whitefish Bay and Lake Superior, opening a channel. Cold nights will refreeze the passage, which will be kept open by the ship as needed.
The locks close in early January each year for winter maintenance and open for the shipping season in late March as steel factories along the shores of the lower lakes need fresh supplies of ore for production. Coal-fired electric facilities also need to replenish their supplies of coal.
Ore, coal, fuel and grain will be some of the cargo being carried to distant ports, said Lt. j.g. Chantal Early of the USCG Mackinaw.
Inside the Mackinaw
The history of using heavy icebreakers on the Great Lakes dates back to an acquisition program in 1936. The mission continues today, with the addition of tending buoys for safe navigation, search-and-rescue operations and law enforcement. The original Mackinaw, commissioned in 1944, was 290 feet in length with a beam of more than 74 feet. It was built during WWII to keep shipping lanes on the Great Lakes open so iron ore and copper from the Upper Peninsula could be delivered to the steel mills along the lower Great Lakes, providing raw material to produce tanks, airplanes, jeeps and other critical machinery to the war effort. Replacing the aging icebreaker after its 62 years of service was another Mackinaw in 2006. Displacing 3,500 tons, the icebreaker has worked the Great Lakes for 10 seasons.
I was pleased they kept the Mackinaw name on this new ship, Tasikas said. The legacy continues.
Carrying a crew of nine officers, five chief petty officers and 41 crew, the ship is the only one in the Coast Guard fleet with Azipods, a brand of electric thrusters in two pods with 10-foot propellers that can be turned 360 degrees, allowing them to direct their thrust in any direction. The pods remove the need for a rudder and the traditional wheel in the pilot house. Two control paddles can operate independently by the pilot. The ship has four stations with similar controls, allowing the pilot to maneuver the vessel from several locations onboard, giving maximum visual control.
The ship can spin on a dime, Tasikas said. We can be very creative in how we maneuver the ship. Coupled with a 550 horsepower bow thruster, the ship is exceptionally maneuverable. Maximum speed is 15 knots, and the ship can break through 32 inches of fresh water ice and up to 10 feet of refrozen brash ice or ridge ice.
Tasikas said he has enjoyed his three years on the Great Lakes. He heads to the classrooms at the Marine Corps War College in Virginia this summer.
I feel very fortunate to be part of this Great Lakes crew, he said. It s been a real joy.
John L. Russell is a photojournalist and writer from Traverse City.
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ARVADA, Colo. — No longer will Chris Cline have to return home to a cold, dark storage unit. No longer will he have to work as an overnight security guard hardly able to pay his bills. Thanks to scores of Denver7 viewers, he has a new job and is on a path to long-term sustainability. The Colorado Dodge Challengers Club lives by a simple principle: ‘Go big or go home.’
The club members know power can be addictive, especially as they rev the engines of their Dodge Challengers.
“707,” Christine McClatchey says of the horsepower on her new Dodge Challenger Hellcat. It looks and, in part, sounds like a jet engine.
“Many times it does feel that way, yes,” she said.
Though she adores the vehicle, which she nicknamed “The Duckanator,” she’s put a different kind of power into overdrive through the club.
“We are obviously huge supporters of military veterans and that has a very obvious segue into law enforcement as well,” McClatchey said. In the last year and a half, the club began giving back to the community. Their first project was a fundraiser they held in the name of Jaimie Jursevics, a Colorado state trooper who died in the line of duty in 2015.
“That is actually cut from her uniform,” McClatchey said of a patch she framed and placed on a wall inside her home.
She said Jursevics’s family gave her the patch as a way to express gratitude for the fundraiser. The club has also hosted other fundraisers in recent months for various causes and organizations such as a local children’s hospital. Through their philanthropic efforts, they decided to assist Chris Cline after seeing his story on Denver7.
One of the club members gave him a place to stay for free. Then, other club members launched a GoFundMe online fundraiser to try to help him pay down outstanding debts and fund various needs he put off for the last few years — including veterinary care for his dog, Anywyn, and vehicle maintenance.
For as much power as they have in their vehicles, she agrees that they’ve found a greater sense of power in trying to make a difference.
“I want this to be right for him going forward and our whole club does,” McClatchey said.
Cline lands new job
Through the roughly 750 car club members, Cline connected with Tiffany Jackson, who leads Compass Management and manages roughly a dozen properties.
“They said, ‘Would you be interested in interviewing with her,’ and I said, ‘Of course,'” he said.
“When I founded this company, when I launched this company, a big part of my business plan was to hire vets,” Jackson said. She had never met Cline, but she heard of his living situation in the storage unit and wanted to help. Jackson said Cline, and other veterans like him, would fit her company well.
“They learn organization, they learn facilities, they learn distribution, they learn structure,” she said. “[They have] hard work, work ethic,” she said.
Beginning Monday, Cline will assist her in maintaining all of her properties. Cline will leave behind the overnight security job he held for roughly five years. Instead, he’ll have better hours and comfortably better pay with Compass. Jackson said he’ll also have room to grow in his new job.
“I’m excited about where the company can go with him in place,” she said.
Eventually, once Cline is in his new gig, he’ll find a new place of his own to call home.
“Once I have that, it’s just a matter of getting used to a new lifestyle, a new place anyway — and living like a normal person,” he laughed. “They’re giving me more than I could have ever hoped, honestly.”
- ^ Jaimie Jursevics (www.thedenverchannel.com)
- ^ after seeing his story on Denver7. (www.thedenverchannel.com)
- ^ One of the club members gave him a place to stay for free. (www.thedenverchannel.com)
- ^ launched a GoFundMe online fundraiser (www.gofundme.com)
- ^ Sign up for Denver7 email alerts (www.thedenverchannel.com)
- ^ iPhone/iPads (itunes.apple.com)
- ^ Android (play.google.com)
- ^ Kindle (www.amazon.com)
- ^ Facebook (www.facebook.com)
- ^ Instagram (instagram.com)
- ^ Twitter (twitter.com)
When Will Olson (left) choked on food during school lunch, his buddy Ian Brown saved his life. (Credit: KARE)
LA CROSSE, Wis. – The talk at La Crosse Central High School was all focused on last weekend s state basketball championship. Then freshmen Will Olson and Ian Brown found themselves in the middle of some heroics themselves. On Wednesday, Ian saved Will s life.
Someone cracked a pretty good joke and I was laughing so hard to the point of where I took a deep breath and that s when I started to choke, says Will, recounting his harrowing experience in the school lunchroom. That s when I really started to panic. Oh jeez, could I possibly die from this?
As Will choked, a security camera in the corner of the lunchroom recorded Ian assessing the situation from across the table, before calmly approaching his friend and performing the Heimlich maneuver. Ian positioned himself behind his friend, wrapped his arms around him and thrust his angled fists into Will s abdomen. He repeated the procedure four times and the piece of stuck food was expelled.
I was just relieved that he was still here, says Ian, who continued to tend to his friend even after the food had been freed.
I was very lucky to have him across the table from me, says Will. Lucky, because Will had just been refreshed in the Heimlich maneuver as part of his training in the police explorer program.
Will assessed the situation, just as he d been trained and went to work.
I had the training maybe a month ago, says Will. I plan to be a police officer, that s my plan. Ian and Will also have more immediate goals. They re planning to address the school board asking that basic CPR, including training in the Heimlich maneuver, be required in the district s mandatory health classes. Champions born for the second time a week.
I walked into PE and people were clapping, and I come into the lunch room and got a standing ovation and a bunch of kids were clapping, said Ian.
He then laughed and added, And I m like, alright, can I eat my lunch?
Give Ian the trophy for humility and heroics.