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MEMA Home > Programs> Communication> News > Situation Update: Kennebec River Ice Jam

Situation Update: Kennebec River Ice Jam


February 1, 2010

5:00 PM


AUGUSTA, MAINE – A major ice jam remains in place in the Kennebec River between Gardiner and Augusta. The Maine Emergency Management Agency, Kennebec County Emergency Management Agency and local officials from the capital area met today with representatives from US Army Corps of Engineers, Cold Regions Research and Environmental Laboratory (CRREL) and the US Geological Survey to discuss available options to deal with the jam.

The US Coast Guard completed its work late Sunday after working for 4 days to open the Kennebec south of Gardiner. “Maine requested the assistance of the Coast Guard in hopes that the increased flow in the river would assist in eroding the ice jam. Unfortunately the jam remained in place, and with cold weather expected for the next 10 days, there was no immediate benefit to be gained by continuing to break ice at this time, ” said MEMA Director Rob McAleer. “The Coast Guard is prepared to come back and resume ice-breaking should we see an approaching flood threat.”

The jam continues to cause fluctuating high water levels in Augusta, and poses a continuing concern from Augusta to Gardiner and points downstream. It extends approximately a mile and a half upstream from Gardiner, and is 10 to 15 feet thick in some areas. In addition, recent cold temperatures have caused sheet ice to reform upstream of the jam, including in downtown Augusta.

CRREL and the USGS concurred that there are no immediate steps that can be taken to break up the jam itself. Instead the focus going forward will be on river monitoring, and making sure that local officials have all the information they need to take appropriate action. Ice-breaking remains the primary mitigation action, and will be extremely important if warm weather or rain is expected, which could cause the ice to move.

“In concert with Kennebec County EMA we will be looking to maximize the amount of warning time we have to take action,” McAleer said. He also stressed that risk factors such as significantly warmer temperatures or rain can be foreseen, ice jams are unpredictable. River communities must be prepared to take action quickly, as they did last week when flooding developed with little notice.

Actions to be taken going forward into the spring include:

  • Installation of automated sensors that will alert officials of ice movement
  • Ongoing ice measurements and observations by the USGS
  • Continuous monitoring of weather trends with the National Weather Service, looking 10 to 14 days out throughout the winter and early spring for the potential of warm weather and/or rain.
  • Local ice observations coordinated through Kennebec County EMA
  • Briefings with local officials as needed concerning current conditions
  • Active and constant information sharing among all parties

“This is a tense time for everyone in the communities affected by this ice jam. We ask that everyone with interests along the river stay in close touch with local officials regarding the flood risk, and make sure their personal and business emergency preparedness plans are in place. ” McAleer said.

McAleer thanked the Coast Guard, as well as responders all along the river, the Maine Marine Patrol and Maine Warden Service for their actions to preserve safety during the last week. “We also want to thank everyone who took their ice-fishing shacks and equipment off the river so that the ice-breaking could take place safely.” McAleer said. “It was a lot to ask, and the response is much appreciated.”



Lynette Miller


Last update: 07/20/10