Md. DNR Icebreaker Clears Waterways for Fishermen, Coast Guard, Construction Crews

A Maryland Department of Natural Resources vessel spent Monday breaking up the ice in the waters near Annapolis, Maryland, to get fishermen, wildlife agencies, and police officers back to work.

Capt. Jeff Lill has been working the waters in and near the Chesapeake Bay for nearly 30 years. He and the crew of the M/V J.C. Widener are one of four that are used to break ice in the waters of Maryland. He said it has been 3 years since he has seen ice so thick in the Annapolis Harbor.

“Ice is about 3 inches thick, not extremely difficult to go through,” Lill said. “Back in the day, we went through some ice that was 18 inches thick.”

The work of the icebreakers allows others to get to their jobs and duties. Steven Grace, dockmaster of the Annapolis Yacht Basin Company, has been working the docks for the past 25 years, selling marine fuel. The fisherman and the construction crews in the area depend on him, and he depends on the icebreakers to clear the way.

“It would shut us down,” Grace said. “Some of the smaller vessels cannot approach the docks in this much ice. They just can’t break it. It’s not safe.”

First responders, like U.S. Coast Guard crews, and commercial crews count on the DNR icebreakers to keep them on the water and safe. Doug Outten, with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, said the freeze came early and fast this year.

“Everything froze with this cold snap,” Outten said. “Usually, it takes a while for the bay to freeze over it. Took 2 weeks for everything to happen where usually, it takes a month or so.”

After clearing the Annapolis Harbor, the crew moved south to clear ice in creeks where marine crews are doing construction. They plan to be back in Annapolis on Tuesday morning, expecting the waters to refreeze overnight. 

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