Front Street in Augusta re-opened Monday for the first time since icy water from the Kennebec River flooded the riverfront parking lot earlier this month. Meanwhile, U.S. Coast Guard boats struggled to make inroads northward.

Lt. Kevin Lully, of the Augusta Police Department, said both ends of the street were open Monday. The south end re-opened Thursday, but the north end was closed through the weekend as Augusta Public Works crews completed cleaning up the area.

The flooding in the downtowns of Augusta and Hallowell was caused by an unexpected ice jam in Farmingdale that followed a thaw that brought heavy rain, then a return to winter cold.

The U.S. Coast Guard has had ice breakers on the river since last week to demolish midwinter ice and ward off further flooding in low-lying areas in and near the capital city.

Three 65-foot cutters — the Bridle, Tackle and Shackle — were on the river Monday until mid-afternoon, following one week of efforts on the water. The watercraft encountered challenging ice conditions because ice broken up in previous days did not flush out of the river, according to Lt. Matthew Odom, chief of the Waterways Management Division in northern New England. Using the ebb current, the vessels were able to break ice about one nautical mile north of Chop Point in Woolwich, Odom said.

“We will continue to evaluate the ice and environmental conditions daily to determine operations,” Odom said. He said the 140-foot icebreaker remained in the area, but the 65-foot cutters are the Coast Guard’s primary resource for flushing ice down river, and they are much more maneuverable in the restricted waters.

All four vessels made their way through Chop Point and to the Maine Kennebec Bridge in Richmond Sunday, and they are expected to remain on the river this week in an attempt to keep the river flowing downstream, which could cause the ice jam to break up.

The 140-foot Penobscot Bay icebreaker was joined by the three smaller cutters Sunday to break up the ice on the river, but the ice hasn’t been flowing down river like officials had hoped.

The smaller vessels split up and broke ice behind the larger craft, which, unlike the three cutters, is equipped with a system that uses a low-pressure air compressor to push air down through the hull into openings along the keel that melts and breaks up the ice.

The Coast Guard planned on having the boats reach the Richmond-Dresden bridge Saturday, but were delayed by a thick ice dam at Chop Point in Woolwich, where ice chunks had been stacking up on top of other ice, making for a thick dam of ice across the river.

The Penobscot Bay pummeled the ice at Chop Point for two days, four hours each day, after arriving in the area Thursday from the Hudson River in New York. It let out a long blast of its horn when it finally made it through, according to a video posted online on the watercraft’s Facebook page.

The Coast Guard received a request a week ago from the Maine Emergency Management Agency to break out the ice on the Kennebec to reduce the risk of further flooding. The depth of the river and low height of the Pearl Harbor Remembrance Bridge linking Gardiner and Randolph limit the Coast Guard’s ability to reach the ice jam, but it will break ice to open up water downriver to improve the river flow, according to Lt. Matthew Odom, chief of the Waterways Management Division in northern New England.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

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