Heavy ice threatens the reliability of Great Lakes-Seaway transportation early and late in the navigation season. The U.S. Coast Guard is responsible for breaking ice to ensure navigation and enhance safety. The agency’s Great Lakes icebreaking fleet consists of nine vessels: six 140-foot icebreaking tugs, two buoy tenders, and the heavy icebreaking cutter Mackinaw. Severe winter weather is placing a stress on these assets and in 2015 Congress authorized the construction of a new heavy icebreaking cutter, of similar capability as the Mackinaw. The project’s estimated cost is $240 million.
Congress should include funds in the FY2020 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill to continue design work on the new vessel.