Article by John Tapley; photos courtesy Jim Trask
Since 1992, the Washington Scuba Alliance (WSA) has been committed to empowering waterways throughout the Evergreen State with scuba explorers in mind. A non-profit organization made up of experts in the community, WSA is a group always on the go: encouraging divers to try out their cold water neighborhoods while improving and establishing local dive destinations.
I spoke with WSA President Jim Trask about recent accomplishments in the first half of 2018, and a projection of what’s to come down the pipe. The organization’s ongoing plans include installing a reef system at Redondo Beach in Des Moines, Washington; a new dive destination off Ediz Hook in Port Angeles; and Alki Cove II off Seattle.
Redondo Artificial Reef
Jim: Since the beginning of the year, WSA has been doing all the paperwork and meetings needed to move forward on the Redondo Artificial Reef Project: we met with the Puyallup Tribe, the City of Des Moines, and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in late February/early March. The city is behind it 100 percent… it’s going to be a free lease for public usage and will not create any monetary needs for the State – similar to a wildlife trail.
John: The Redondo Artificial Reef Project is very much a community effort. Who else has joined the project?
Jim: We’ve worked closely with an agency on Saltwater State Park, a construction company who installed the reef, to get an idea of the cost. We’ve also worked with the University of Washington’s engineering design group to come up with ideas on what to put in.
John: What are some key features divers can look forward to at the Redondo reef?
Jim: We’re talking about a couple possible swim throughs using culverts. There will be vertical structure in the form of basalt rock pillars, which will be considered a tribute to the military: a concrete plaque denoting the six different military organizations and wars from WWI and forward. The rock piles… we’re working with the Marine Science and Technology Center (MaST) for different sizes of rocks at different depths [to attract] different types of sea life. On the science side of it, we’re installing an underwater camera to monitor the site for MaST.
John: There’s going to be a lot of science going into this project. Could you share a technique used by the MaST Center?
Jim: They’re beginning to do the transect surveys – lines that imitate the shoreline – which are required by the Department of Fish and Wildlife to show what sealife is under there right now; this information shows we aren’t affecting any endangered species.
John: WSA has received a lot of support from the MaST Center. How is the local dive community engaged in the Redondo project?
Jim: In the beginning, feedback was both positive and negative. A lot of people said, “Not in my reef!” because of [objects] that exist right now: the boats, the Volkswagen, the jungle gym, the bathtub, and a lot of other junk in the water. They didn’t want us to pull it out.
As our meetings progressed, they started realizing stuff like the pipe boat was starting to dissolve and sink into the sand – once its gone, its gone. The Department of Natural Resources is aware of every item that’s down there and they want them out yesterday.
John: Do you have an estimated date for when the project will be complete?
Jim: We’re hoping to begin the process in the fall of 2019 because we have to wait a whole year for the transect surveys. We’re working with Environmental Science Associates to make sure our permitting is done properly. As soon as this project’s done we’re moving to Port Angeles. From here on, every reef will be streamlined and modeled after Redondo.
John: Tell me about the Port Angeles project.
Jim: Port Angeles has an existing dive site instead of the harbor off Ediz Hook but it’s inside a Coast Guard security area. If anyone wants to dive that site – and it can only be dove by boat – they have to set up arrangements. Since then, the Navy has decided to put in a dock for two of their boats, which is close to the existing rock pile; and security won’t allow it to be dove.
The City of Port Angeles has given a piece of property to be used as a dive park – outside of the Coast Guard station. The city is in the process of removing beach armoring and other items from the inside of Ediz Hook: securing a large amount of rock that be used as an artificial reef within this new park. The Lower Elwha and Samish Tribes are also supporting this project.
John: Why will that particular site appealing for scuba divers?
Jim: The site the city gave us has bathrooms, and easy parking and beach access. You’ll be able to park your car, gear up, and have a nice, safe dive inside the harbor… take your gear off, go to the bathroom, and go home. It’s easy and convenient, and something new for a lot of divers who don’t have access to a boat to dive the rock pile. We’ll make it as interesting as possible – maybe work with a tribe to get an art feature installed.
Alki Cove II
John: Alki Cove has been one of Seattle’s favorites for many years. What are WSA’s plans for it?
Jim: What’s there right now has almost literally melted into the mud. The Honey Bear was an old barge and its structure is almost gone… the last time I dove it, it was just like kelp fronds moving with the current. A steel dolphin had a number of girders attached to each other and there’s only one left standing.
At Cove II, we have a wonderful border area we’ve maintained to keep people away from the water taxi. We’re going to add quarry rock: putting in rock piles at various depths similar to what we’re going to do at Redondo: smaller rocks in, larger rocks deeper. Alki Cove is known for its octopus so we’re probably going to add dens specifically built for them. We also want to add shore features like stairs to make it easier to get in: Alki Cove II can be a hassle for inexperienced or older divers.
It’s not written in concrete. We don’t want to start the project until we get public input on what they want to see there. After the public forums we’ll know what they want and will move forward. We’re keeping the dialogue moving.
For more information on WSA, including membership details, visit www.wascuba.com .