Coast Guard Crews Are Culling the Great Lakes of Buoys in an Annual Fall Ritual

Operation Fall Retrieve, which involves 16 Coast Guard units along with two contracted companies to retrieve 1,282 navigational aids from the Great Lakes, is scheduled to be completed by Dec. 28.

The aids, approximately half the region’s total, are taken out of service during the winter months due to decreased vessel traffic, and to minimize damage to them from ice and weather.


“Operation Fall Retrieve is the operation for swapping out or pulling out the (aids to navigation) before the ice season sets in,” said Lt. Cmdr. John Henry, commanding officer of cutter Bristol Bay. "The normal ATONs are too big and gangly to withstand pressure from ice flow, so the ice would take them under the water and destroy them.”

The cutter Alder was in Grand Haven last weekend after completing its retrieval work on Lake Michigan.