Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Province considers hovercraft to break ice

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PREMIER Gary Doer said Thursday the province is looking at using a hovercraft to break up stubborn river ice.

It's an idea first raised by Liberal leader Jon Gerrard to deal with future ice jams on the Red River.

Gerrard said Manitoba should get its own hovercraft to smash up ice on the Red to avoid potentially disastrous flooding caused by ice jams on the river and in the floodway.

Gerrard said hovercrafts are used in Quebec to break up ice in and around the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Doer said during Question Period on Thursday officials are looking at whether the hovercraft in Quebec is the same or better than Manitoba's current plan of using four Wolverine ice cutters and the two Amphibex ice-breaking machines.

"We will evaluate what they find on the St. Lawrence River versus what we're dealing with here," Doer said. "If anything is better than what we're using we'll obviously look at it."

The Canadian Coast Guard recently took possession of a 75-tonne hovercraft to patrol and break up ice in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The hovercraft cost $16 million.

The use of a hovercraft on the Red River was first raised in 1997 by retired CNR boilermaker Ross Hadden.

Hadden said in an interview with the Free Press that a hovercraft, propelled on an air-cushion over either land or water, could be used to break up the river ice early and ensure a more rapid spring runoff to Lake Winnipeg. The province considered the idea, but backed off because a hovercraft was not available.

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 11, 2009 A4

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