Canadian Underwriter

Manitoba icebreaker fleet retrofitted in preparation of ice-jam mitigation

January 14, 2016   by Canadian Underwriter

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Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation Minister Steve Ashton has announced that Amphibex icebreaking machines have been retrofitted with a “made-in-Manitoba solution” to reinforce the front pedestal assembly supporting the critical hydraulic boom arms to better attack Red River ice when the ice-jam mitigation program goes into action.

A road sign pokes out of flood water caused by an ice jam on the Red River north of Selkirk, MB, Thursday, April 5, 2007. Ice jams have caused minor flooding in the town. About 100 residents of a seniors complex had to be evacuated Wednesday night. (CP PHOTO/John Woods)

Ashton made the announcement on Thursday at the Amphibex maintenance building in East Selkirk. “The 22-ton Amphibex machines are unique, impressive pieces of equipment that require annual maintenance and sometimes innovation,” Ashton said in a press release. “Manitoba’s Amphibex team, led by North Red Waterway Maintenance Inc., will be ready to help reduce ice-jam-related flooding on the north Red River next month. Experience has shown how quickly ice-jam-related flooding can develop and the ice cutters, icebreaking machines and personnel will create a path for river ice to move.”

The boom pulls the Amphibex onto solid ice, allowing its weight to break up one metre or more thick ice into pieces, the release explained. The pedestal connects the boom arm to the hull. This was a key structural reinforcement that involved re-engineering parts of the boom support assembly. The design and fabrication was done in Manitoba for the Amphibex fleet.

Ice-cutting machines normally move on to the ice in early February, first creating a grid pattern. Then the Amphibex equipment follows the pattern, breaking the ice and creating a free-flowing channel to enable ice chunks to move once the breakup begins, the release said.

The first 2016 flood outlook is scheduled for release during the last week of February, Ashton added, noting that the province and municipalities work together to refine plans and assess equipment needs to prepare for spring.

The icebreakers can also be transported by heavy trucks to other areas of the province if ice-jam issues develop on other rivers. Two-person crews pilot the vessels with safety and support crews nearby. Global positioning systems have been installed on the ice cutters to track exactly where the cuts have been made.

The provincial ice-mitigation fleet consists of four Amphibex AE 400 icebreaking machines, seven ice cutting machines and seven amphibious transport and support vehicles. The icebreaking and ice-cutting equipment is operated and maintained by North Red Waterway Maintenance, a corporation formed by the rural municipalities of St. Andrews and St. Clements and the City of Selkirk with support from the Manitoba government.

The Amphibex fleet crushes more than 25 kilometres of river ice annually.