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Coast Guard Begins Operation Spring Restore

The 9th Coast Guard District, headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, begins restoring the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway aids to navigation system April 4 following the re-opening of the Soo Locks and St. Lawrence Seaway April 1  and the resumption of the shipping season.

Operation Spring Restore involves the re-installment of approximately 1,270 navigational aids, including lighted and unlighted buoys and beacons, with an expected completion date of May 28, 2011.

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw under way in support of Operation Spring Restore. The 240-foot Great Lakes-class Mackinaw can break 32 inches of ice continuously at 3 knots. USCG photo courtesy of Lt. Cmdr. Justin Kimura

The aids, which are roughly half in the region, are taken out of service during the winter months due to decreased vessel traffic and to minimize damage from ice and inclement weather.  This is known as Operation Fall Retrieve.

The 9th District’s aids to navigation system facilitates safe and efficient maritime activity on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway region by marking safe passage for domestic, international, commercial, and recreational vessel traffic.

On the Great Lakes, the Coast Guard manages 2,574 federal aids in the region.

To accomplish the mission, the 9th District employs six U.S. Coast Guard cutters, five aids to navigation teams, and five smallboat stations with aids to navigation duties.  The Coast Guard is assisted in this endeavor by: the Lamplighters, a group of civilian employees who manage the inland waters of northern Minnesota; the Canadian Coast Guard; and the St. Lawrence Seaway Corporation.

The Coast Guard Auxiliary also helps the district with verification of approximately 1,700 privately owned aids to navigation in the region.

The waters of the Great Lakes are marked to assist navigation by the U.S. Aids to Navigation System. This system employs a simple arrangement of colors, shapes, numbers and light characteristics to mark navigable channels, waterways and obstructions adjacent to them.

The aids restored during Operation Spring Restore include, but are not limited to:

  • lighted structures;
  • beacons;
  • day markers;
  • range lights;
  • fog signals;
  • landmarks; and
  • buoys (lighted and unlighted).

All have a purpose and help in determining location, as well as facilitating the safe transit from one place to another, or staying out of danger.

Adapted from a U.S. Coast Guard 9th District press release and a March 29, 2011, post to the “Coast Guard Compass,” the official blog of the U.S. Coast Guard.