BATH – The Coast Guard started its springtime ice-breaking ritual along the Kennebec River on Saturday, a bit earlier than planned.

Four Coast Guard Cutters have been staged in Bath since Wednesday.

“All four of our breakers are under way,” said Lt. Nick Barrow. One of them, the 140-foot Rockland-based cutter Thunder Bay, was able to carve a track all the way up to the Richmond Bridge. “Things have been going well thus far, and they were able to make much faster time than expected.”

The effort reduces the possibility of ice jamming and flooding as water runoff tries to drain to the ocean. The ice-breaking was originally scheduled for Monday, but was moved up. There also have been concerns about forecasts for heavy rain, which increases the possibility of ice jams and flooding.

The ice-breaking started in the main channel from Merrymeeting Bay and will move north to Gardiner. It’s expected to continue until Tuesday.

Other cutters are the Portland-based Shackle, the Rockland-based Tackle and the Southwest Harbor-based Bridle. Those three are 65 feet.