Ice damage to the Bluewater Ferry causeway. Jan 2018, photo by Sue Storr.

Coast Guard Responds To Sombra Ferry Incident

The Canadian Coast Guard has released the following statement in response to an incident Thursday, January 11 at Sombra’s Bluewater Ferry.

A sustained blast of Arctic air that extended from late December into January rapidly accelerated the formation of ice on the Great Lakes.

Throughout the week of January 8, gale-force winds from the north flushed a large amount of ice from Lake Huron down the St Clair River. To compound the problem weather conditions swung from one extreme to the next, with warm weather loosening ice that was fast against the shore of the upper St. Clair River. That ice was carried further downstream by the high winds.

The shipping lane is on the American side of the St. Clair River. Icebreakers do not operate near the Sombra Ferry Dock.

There were many vessels on the water at the time damage was reported to the coast guard, including both a Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker, the CCGS Samuel Risley, and a United States Coast Guard ice cutter. The CCGS Samuel Risley was escorting four American vessels in the St. Clair River to ensure the safe and efficient movement of commercial goods to American industries in the region.

The icebreaking done by the Canadian Coast Guard mitigates a significant flood risk along the St. Clair River, which benefits communities on both sides of the border. St Clair River water levels in flood-prone zones have dropped which is credited to joint coast guard icebreaking efforts.

Icebreaking service from the Canadian and United States coast guards is helping ships moving safely and efficiently through the ice on one of the busiest trans-border shipping lanes in North America, the St. Clair River.

The St. Clair River does not shut down in January as stated in media reports. The Welland Canal and the Soo Locks are closed but shipping continues throughout the winter months from Lake Huron to Lake Erie.

At the beginning of each season, the Canadian Coast Guard issues public notices to advise of its icebreaking service:

For more information about Canadian Coast Guard icebreaking levels of service, please visit:

St. Clair River Channel (Map provided to Blackburn News Sarnia by the Canadian Coast Guard)

St. Clair River Channel (Map provided to Blackburn News Sarnia by the Canadian Coast Guard)


St. Clair River ice extensively damaged the raised road leading to the Bluewater Ferry dock and Canada Customs office January 11. The entire causeway gave way a few days later.

A $2.5-million dollar rebuild is proposed.

Sarnia-Lambton MP Marilyn Gladu is lobbying senior government for immediate financial support so the causeway can be replaced before fish spawning season in March.