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Area waterways to close as shipping season comes to an end

West Neebish and Pipe Island Channels of the St. Marys River will close Thursday
2018-01-13USCGC Mackinaw-04
Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw near the Soo Locks, 2018. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Lt. j.g. Sean Murphy)

SAULT STE. MARIE, MICH. - Captain of the Port Sault Ste. Marie will close three regional waterways in conjunction with the scheduled closure of the Soo Locks and the expected development of ice. On Thursday, Jan. 16, the West Neebish Channel and Pipe Island Channel (North and East of Pipe Island) of the St. Marys River, and Grays Reef Passage in the Straits of Mackinac will close to commercial shipping.

Per United States Code of Federal Regulation, these actions steer commercial shipping and Coast Guard ice breaking activity away from these waterways during the winter months. A similar announcement in the spring will precede any icebreaking plans to reopen these waterways.

The Coast Guard reminds all recreational ice users to plan their activities carefully:
    •    Always check the weather and ice conditions
    •    Always tell family and friends where you are going and when you expect to be back – and stick to the plan or notify them when plans have changed.
    •    Dress in bright colours, wear reflective clothing, patches, or tape; and wear an exposure suit that is waterproof and a personal floatation device. The chances of locating a person in distress are increased when the individual wears bright and reflective clothing.
    •    Carry two ice picks or screwdrivers. If you fall through the ice, these instruments can aid in pulling yourself back onto solid ice. They are much more effective than hands alone, since there’s nothing to grip.
    •    Carry a whistle or noise-making device to alert people of distress; carry a VHF-FM radio or Personal Locator Beacon, to contact local emergency responders.
    •    Wear bright reflective clothing and a Coast Guard approved personal flotation device.
    •    Stay far away from shipping channels and ice breaking operations.

Contact the Vessel Traffic Service at (906) 635-3232 or via email at SOOTFC@USCG.MIL for additional information.