The United States Coast Guard plans to break up ice on the Kennebec River during the week of March 23 to reduce the risk of ice jamming and flooding as snow and ice melts.

Forecasters at the annual meeting of the state River Flow Advisory Commission last week said there is an above-normal risk of flooding near the end of March for rivers and streams in central, coastal and southern Maine. Models showing temperatures warming in late March with possible rainfall and up to 3 feet of snow still on the ground in some places increase the risk of flooding.

“The later into the spring you go with a large snowpack, the greater the chances of a rapid warm-up with rainfall,” Tom Hawley, a hydrologist for the National Weather Service in Gray, told the commission Thursday.

The Coast Guard expects to take its cutters up the Kennebec River to Gardiner sometime during the week of March 23, according to Petty Officer LaNola Stone, a spokeswoman in the Boston office of the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard breaks ice as needed during the springtime, mainly in the Kennebec and Penobscot rivers in Maine, to prevent ice jams that can lead to flooding, Stone said.

This year, there’s a somewhat higher chance of ice jams occurring in the Kennebec River near Richmond because an old bridge and a newly opened bridge connecting Richmond and Dresden both have piers in the river, Stone said. The new 1,500-foot-long bridge opened at the start of the year, replacing the swing bridge that has spanned the river for around 80 years.

Gregory Stewart, data section chief for the U.S. Geological Survey in Augusta, said at the river commission’s meeting Thursday that ice is building around the piers of the new bridge. Stewart said there is 10 to 20 inches of ice on the Kennebec River around Augusta, which is normal.

The Coast Guard has already struggled this winter to break up ice on the Penobscot River because the ice and snow on the river near the Veterans Remembrance Bridge connecting Bangor and Brewer was too thick, according to a Bangor Daily News story last week. The Coast Guard plans to use a larger boat to break up ice on the river later this month, the story said.

Paul Koenig — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @paul_koenig


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