The U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Tuesday approved $1 billion for U.S. Coast Guard shore side infrastructure nationwide and $350 million for a heavy icebreaker for the Great Lakes.
The funds were approved as part of its budget reconciliation bill, an action that the Great Lake Maritime Task Force (GLMTF) called “great news for the Great Lakes.”
Its probably too early to assume this will actually happen, but so far, so good, particularly with regard to the infrastructure portion.
As for the Icebreaker, what it is talking about is an icebreaker at least as capable a USCGC Mackinaw. What we might get is a second Mackinaw, but we could do better. This might be an opportunity to prototype the Arctic Security Cutter.
The Great Lakes contingent in Congress don’t seem to want any connection between the “Heavy” (really light) Great Lakes Icebreaker and the Artic Security Cutter, but they would be smart to consider the benefits.
First USCGC Mackinaw was commissioned in 2006. That may look pretty new now, but by the time the new Great Lakes Icebreaker is completed, it will be 20 years old. Looking further down the timeline, it will need to be replaced long before this second Great Lakes breaker. So some time in the future they will, presumably, have to again seek funding for a one-off unique design for the Lakes.
If the Arctic Security Cutter can transit the locks into the Great Lakes, they could supplement icebreaking in the Lakes and provide a ready replacement when the Mackinaw inevitably reaches the end of it life.
Combining the programs would also reduce the average unit price and would probably mean a more capable breaker for the Lakes than might otherwise have been possible.