A spring melt may still seem like a distant dream for Waterloo Region, but the Grand River Conservation Authority is bringing in heavy machinery to help prevent flooding.

CCGS Griffon, an icebreaker that belongs to the Canadian Coast Guard, will help clear ice from the mouth of the Grand River where it enters Lake Erie. 

"As the ice from the Grand River breaks up and flows downstream it gets to the mouth of the river and if the lake is frozen over there's no place for that ice to go. The result is that the ice builds up and water starts to build up in the lower Grand River and floods the communities," said Dave Schultz with the Grand River Conservation Authority. 

The icebreaker will help prevent flooding in Port Maitland and Dunnville, but getting the timing right for the mission is crucial.

"If you bring the icebreaker in too early there's the risk that the lake or the river could freeze over again," said Schultz.  

The key, according to Schultz, is to bring the ship in "around the time when you're going to have consistently warm temperatures, you're going to get that breakup on the river, and the water flowing down." 

The GRCA isn't sure exactly when they will ask the Coast Guard to dispatch the ship but Schutlz says they're keeping a close eye on the weather, checking various forecasts. 

"We also have computer programs we use to analyze changes in the weather and that gives us a picture of what kind of movement and ice melt we'll see on the river," he said. 

CCGS Griffon has cleared ice from the Grand River before. In February 2009, an ice jam caused flooding in Dunnville. According to Schultz the flooding lasted about 24 hours, until the icebreaker was able to clear the river. Damages from the flood reached about $1 million.