DNR clears waterways to and from Smith Island

Freezing temperatures  have been felt for days throughout  Delmarva, and has even caused parts of the Chesapeake Bay to freeze.

On Wednesday, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources sailed through the Chesapeake Bay. They agency has sent out crews on a 100 foot boat specially designed to cut through layers of ice.

"The boats are ice breaking vessels, and are what you call shallow draft so they can so into the smaller waterways and clear these paths ," says Gregg Bortz, the Chief Public Information Officer for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

The boats are clearing pathways to travel to and from Smith Island.
"It's a lifeline to keep these channel cleared,  so that supply boats, ferrys, sailboats can go back and forth," says Bortz.

Captains are constantly monitoring weather and water conditions to determine when to sail. They tell us some fo their busiest times are when the water temperatures dip below freezing, and creating sheets of ice over the Chesapeake Bay.

The ice makes it difficult  for residents and waterman to travel to and from the mainland.

"When it gets really bad, we spend the night in smith island on the boat and leave early  in the morning, and bring them over and take them back," says Captain Eddie Somers.

Despite the harsh winter conditions, crews brave the cold and ensure residents can get home safely, and even acting as a ferry when other boats can get through.

"We pretty much become the ferry, we take passengers, and freight, medicines, and anything they need," says Captain Somers.

DNR tells us this is their third time this year sending out boats to clear waterways.They tell us the cold temperatures have caused water to re-freeze after cutting through the ice, which is why they plan on making more trips later this week.

Categories: Local News, Maryland