Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Ice Still Affecting St. Marys River

The Soo Evening News carried a story recently about the effects of the icebreaking activities on Neebish Island residents. Neebish Island is a 21 square mile island just downstream from our cabin. Neebish Island is basically undeveloped although there are many year-round residents. A ferry operates during the warmer months and an ice bridge forms in the winter. The big problem is in the spring when the ice bridge is broken up and the residents are basically stranded. My understanding is that there are no stores on the island so residents must be prepared for several days of isolation. Right now, several days of isolation sounds good but I'm sure the residents don't appreciate a forced 'vacation'.

You can read all about Neebish Island in the Hunt's Guide to the Upper Peninsula. Tomorrow I'll write about the history of Neebish Island. As with everything in the Eastern Upper Peninsula, it goes way back and is very interesting.

Last summer I found a website that contains information for island residents that you might enjoy: Neebish Island News

Soo Evening News story:

Icebreaking activities by the U.S. Coast Guard are coming under fire from a vocal contingent of Neebish Island residents who are stranded. “The river was wide open, then the coast guard went down through and broke off the shore ice,” one resident said. “It was just so unnecessary.”

The icebreaking activities on Wednesday have prevented the Neebish Island Ferry from running across the channel for three days and it was unclear on Saturday afternoon when the ferry would be able to resume operation. The island resident added that it certainly isn’t unexpected to have the ice jam curtail ferry traffic during breakout, but the 2009 closure didn’t need to happen: “Mother Nature was doing a great job.” Those who live on Neebish Island year-round had presumably stockpiled fuel and food in preparation for the spring break-up so the situation is, by no means, dire — just inconvenient. It is also familiar, happening nearly every season during spring break up.

Chippewa County Central Dispatch will work in conjunction with the U.S. Coast Guard and Chippewa County Sheriff Department in the event of an emergency to provide assistance to island residents. There are at least two airboats that can be employed and, if needed, a helicopter would also be available to provide assistance until the ferry can be utilized.

Commercial shipping began with the opening of the locks last week and there have been multiple downbound transits of the river. The USCG Mackinaw worked the channels around the river on Sunday to help move the ice down river.

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