EAST HADDAM, Conn. (WTNH)– Ice breaking operations continue on the Connecticut River and Senator Richard Blumenthal says it is a matter of national security.
The sound of crumbling ice can be heard from the bow of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Bollard.
“We’re working to maintain a track line through the ice and where the ice jams up in the corners we want to alleviate that,” said BMC Christopher Connolly, Officer in Charge on the USCGC Bollard.
The Bollard was conducting ice breaking operations on the Connecticut River Wednesday and expected to be back at it again on Thursday.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal,(D) Connecticut, was given a turn at the helm of the 70 ton Coast Guard Cutter which can break up to a foot of ice.
“Driving this boat was a thrill,” said the senator.
But as he also says this is serious business.
“The ship’s hull is designed so that it runs up on top of the ice and the weight of the ship breaks the ice,” said BMC Connolly.
“It’s really a matter of national security that we keep our rivers open and make sure these folks who depend on these vital supplies including defense contractors have what they need,” said Sen. Blumenthal.
This mission is called OP RENEW which stands for Operation Reliable Energy for Northeast Winters.
85 percent of the nation’s heating oil is consumed in the Northeast and 90 percent of that is delivered by ship on Coast Guard maintained waterways.
“In recent years the Coast Guard has assisted as many as 300 vessels in one winter which required assistance to move through the ice,” said BMC Connolly.
The Coast Guard has eight 65-foot cutters in the Northeast for the ice breaking operation.
On the Connecticut River there isn’t a lot of vessel traffic this time of year but there is a lot of ice and there are concerns about flooding.
Breaking up ice jams is key to keeping waterfront communities from flooding.
“You’re either busy maintaining a track line or you’re busy clearing ice jams” said BMC Connolly.
The Bollard is based out of New Haven and clears ice along Long Island Sound and the rivers which run into it.