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BURNS HARBOR, Ind. — There is no current law on the books that requires to United States Coast Guard to break ice and keep shipping lanes open in the Great Lakes during the winter months.

Indiana Sen. Todd Young (R) has introduced legislation with fellow Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D) and Michigan Sen. Gary Peters (D) that would put that in writing and also securing the necessary tools for the Coast Guard to do just that.

Young said to Inside Indiana Business that keeping the Great Lakes open during the winter is crucial to Indiana’s economy.

“28-percent of America’s annual economic output runs through that Great Lakes region,” Young said. “During the winter months, these arteries can become clogged up (with ice) and impassable without the help of ice-breaking ships.”

There are ships specifically designed for icebreaking that the coast guard already uses in places like the Arctic or the northern Bearing Sea to open shipping lanes for American ships.

The Coast Guard already able to break ice on the Great Lakes, but with only one heavy ice breaker ship and six smaller ice-breaking tug boats, Young says that is not nearly enough, especially since the ice they break can be as much as 30 inches thick.

His bill would enable the Coast Guard to break ice on the Great Lakes on a much bigger scale in order to keep ship traffic moving.

“Two years ago the maritime industry lost over one billion dollars and over 5,000 jobs due to delays in icebreaking,” said Young. “This legislation simply helps to ensure we have enough icebreaking capacity to allow the 90 million tons of cargo that pass through the Great Lakes to actually traverse them.”

The bill authorizes $350 million in federal funding to be used for the construction of a new Great Lakes heavy icebreaker. The bill already has bipartisan support and a similar bill is being introduced in the House by Wisconsin Republican Congressman Mike Gallagher.