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Canadian Coast Guard hovercraft breaks ice on Chateauguay River

The Canadian Coast Guard hovercraft hit the mouth of the Chateauguay River for its annual ice breaking operation. Yannick Gadbois

The Canadian Coast Guard’s Sipu Muin hovercraft hit the Chateauguay River Wednesday morning for its annual ice breaking operation.

The seasonal event is intended to free the river from the ice that forms over the winter months.

The crews manning the hovercraft cleared sections of the Chateauguay River near its mouth.

According to officials, this year’s work began earlier than usual due to the warm temperatures and higher water levels.

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The weight of the hovercrafts breaks the four-inch-thick ice down into manageable pieces by creating wake and waves.

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Using the machine’s powerful turbines, the ice chunks are cleared to prevent ice jams and flooding that may occur during spring breakup.

“This is a necessity for Chateauguay,” city fire Chief Patrick Desmarais said.

Desmarais said the annual clearing by the amphibious vehicle allows water from the spring runoff to make its way out to the St. Lawrence River.

“When the spring floods arrive, for sure there will be some flooding, but this helps prevent worse cases,” Desmarais said.

Roughly 2.5 kilometres of the river was cleared by the hovercraft. Desmarais says the rest will be done by the city with a specialized backhoe adapted for the water, known as the Frog.

Desmarais said the coast guard’s help is invaluable as the clearing, which took more than four hours, would take the city several days.

The coast guard has deployed two hovercrafts to preform similar ice breaking operations on the Saint Lawrence River waterway throughout the Greater Montreal region.

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The CCGS Mamilossa and CCGS Sipu Muin are air-cushion vehicles whose engines produce a noise similar to that of an aircraft.

The icebreakers are recognizable by their red hull with a transverse white stripe in the centre.

 

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