The boundaries of the Ninth Coast Guard District encompass the shores of the Great Lakes states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York.
The Great Lakes basin covers 295,000 square miles of land and water, including nearly 6,700 miles of American shoreline. Twenty-five million American citizens rely on the lakes for their recreation and their livelihoods. Economically, it is one of the most important areas in North America.
There are more than 1,800 active-duty members, 67 civilians, 600 reservists, and 4,500 auxiliarists serving the needs of the public in the 9th District. The district facilites include 92 units in all, of which 48 are stations (with 188 smallboats) dotting the shoreline from Alexandria Bay, New York, to Duluth, Minnesota. There are also two air stations, one air facility, 10 cutters and two LORAN stations. These units are tasked with traditional Coast Guard missions such as boating safety, military readiness, search and rescue, aids to navigation, icebreaking, law enforcement, environmental protection and port security.
While the boating season on the lakes has traditionally been thought to be short because of the harsh winters, SAR units, aided by both reservists and auxiliarists, handle close to 7,500 cases annually. Two stations were ranked among the Coast Guard's five busiest and were credited with saving more than 500 lives in 1994.
To educate and assist the district's rapidly growing boating population, the Auxiliary is relied upon very heavily. With more than 2.3 million of America's 11.5 million recreational boaters residing here, the Auxiliary provides a valuable contribution to the success of the Coast Guard's SAR and boating-safety missions.
To facilitate commerce on the Great Lakes during the winter months, the Ninth District employs five 140-foot ice-breaking tugs, the 290-foot icebreaker Mackinaw, and three 180-foot icebreaking buoy tenders. During an average winter season, the cutters, working closely with the Canadian Coast Guard, clear the way for approximately $62 million worth of commercial cargo. During the winter of 1993-94, when all five Great Lakes were frozen over for the first time since the 1970s, they kept commerce flowing with an estimated cargo value of $124 million.
Currently, the next generation of Coast Guard buoy tenders is being built in Marinette, Wisconsin. Two classes, the 225-foot Juniper class and the 175-foot Ida Lewis class, will replace the Coast Guard's aging fleet of World War II vintage vessels. They are state-of-the-art cutters complete with the latest technology.
The district maintains more than 3,300 buoys, navigational lights and fixed aids throughout the Great Lakes. There are also eight marine safety offices, nine captains of the port and three marine safety detachments. Additionally, the district has a combat-trained port-security unit which can be deployed to any location in the world. Such was the case during the Persian Gulf War and the Haitian operation "Uphold Democracy."
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