Front Street in Augusta reopened Monday for the first time since icy water from the Kennebec River flooded the riverfront parking lot earlier this month. Meanwhile, U.S. Coast Guard boats struggled to make inroads northward.

Augusta police Lt. Kevin Lully said both ends of the street were open Monday. The south end reopened Thursday, but the north end was closed through the weekend as Augusta Public Works crews finished cleaning up the area.

The flooding in the downtowns of Augusta and Hallowell was caused by an ice jam in Farmingdale that followed a thaw, heavy rain and a return to winter cold.

The Coast Guard has had icebreakers on the river since last week to demolish midwinter ice and ward off further flooding in low-lying areas in and near the capital city.

Three 65-foot cutters – the Bridle, Tackle and Shackle – were on the river until midafternoon Monday, following one week of efforts on the water. The watercraft encountered challenging ice conditions because ice broken up in previous days did not flush out of the river, according to Lt. Matthew Odom, chief of the Waterways Management Division in northern New England. Using the ebb current, the vessels were able to break ice about one nautical mile north of Chop Point in Woolwich, Odom said.

“We will continue to evaluate the ice and environmental conditions daily to determine operations,” Odom said. He said a 140-foot icebreaker remained in the area, but the 65-foot cutters are the Coast Guard’s primary resource for flushing ice downriver, and they are much more maneuverable in the restricted waters.

All four vessels made their way through Chop Point and to the Maine Kennebec Bridge in Richmond on Sunday, and they are expected to remain on the river this week in an attempt to keep the river flowing, which could cause the ice jam to break up.

The 140-foot Penobscot Bay icebreaker was joined by the three smaller cutters Sunday to break up the ice on the river, but the ice hasn’t been flowing downriver as officials had hoped.

The smaller vessels split up and broke ice behind the larger craft, which, unlike the three cutters, is equipped with a system that uses a low-pressure air compressor to push air down through the hull into openings along the keel that melts and breaks up the ice.

The Coast Guard planned on having the boats reach the Richmond-Dresden bridge on Saturday, but they were delayed by a thick ice dam at Chop Point in Woolwich, where ice chunks had been stacking up on top of other ice.

The Penobscot Bay pummeled the ice at Chop Point for two days, four hours each day, after arriving in the area Thursday from the Hudson River in New York.

The Coast Guard received a request a week ago from the Maine Emergency Management Agency to break out the ice on the Kennebec to reduce the risk of further flooding.

Jason Pafundi can be contacted at 621-5663 or at:

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