The Washington Scuba Alliance (WSA) has been making waves throughout Washington State with a fresh outlook going forward and stronger relationships with likeminded organizations. Over the last few years, the alliance has established reef sites, replaced old buoys, and established best use practices on transporting sea animals from dangerous materials. Ultimately, WSA’s mission is to “enhance Washington waters to create sustainable marine environments through advocacy, conservation and education.”
Article by John Tapley; photos by Hannah Wyatt
WSA has made significant changes throughout 2019, including modifications to its branding and logo, which features the group’s focus on water-based environments. WSA’s newly improved website, www.wascuba.org, carries these new highlights.
Recently, I interviewed WSA President Jim Trask and board member Randy Williams on WSA’s current happenings, its gradual shift from scuba diving to environmental causes, and future developments.
John Tapley (J): Thank you for interviewing with me with morning. To get started, what are some general thoughts on WSA? What’s been happening lately?
Jim Trask (JT): WSA has definitely reorganized. We’re now a major conservation effort: using the dive community as its platform by not only introducing artificial reefing (which has been our plan all along)… we’re now getting more and more into the scientific aspects of conservation and marine restoration: bull kelp, eel grass, pinto abalone, removing habitats from the water and finding new homes, and other issues.
We’ve found this is a better way for us to go to get recognition from the community at large, along with government agencies, whereas we catered to divers alone in the past. It hasn’t bore any fruit for us.
Randy Williams (RW): Washington Scuba Alliance has definitely taken a new path because I believe with all the concerns Puget Sound waters have in general – the orca and salmon issue – this gives us an opportunity to expand beyond just saving dive sites. At the same time, let’s create some new sites and that’s good because it will add to the quality. We’ve lost so much habitat from human intervention: here’s a way to take that intervention in a positive way: creating new habitat, growth areas, and in turn forage fish and right up the food chain.
I think that’s a better route to go and has opened up a lot more technology to us, along with connections with other organizations that are on a similar path so we’re working together on a single mission: let’s get the fish back; let’s improve the environment. How can we do this in a good solid, scientific, quantifiable way? We’ve connected well with different state agencies and scientific groups who now look at us… “Hey, you’re doing something that’s really positive!”
J: Who are some of these entities you are working with?
RW: We’ve had some great connections with the Puget Sound Restoration Fund, NOAA, our local state agencies, the City of Des Moines on the Redondo Project, and partnering with the MaST (Marine and Science Technology) Center at Highline College. The way it’s coming together, I think, is a really good deal because it involves a lot more people than divers. SR3 (Sealife Response, Rehabilitation, and Research) is moving into Des Moines because of pressure and support by some of our city council people and our connections. The Puget Sound Restoration Fund – Jim mentioned the kelp and eel grass – has realized this is exactly what we’re trying to do: giving them a venue to support that.
JT: We’ve got a more diverse group of people that are wanting to support us than we’ve had in the past. I’m finding that extremely encouraging because they’re coming to us. We didn’t have to go to anybody: they sought us out, which is fantastic. It’s great when people see us as somebody to go to. A group from California called Reef Check sought us out to help them understand what our issues are in Washington State… the health and diversity of sea life. That’s in the early stages. It’s all new stuff and it’s a lot of work. We think it will help us grow better and smarter because of the additional help from the outside.
J: Name me, each of you, one big success WSA has made over the last, we’ll say, three years.
JT: I think it’s recognition from the different government agencies, finally. We haven’t gone away.
RW: I agree with Jim. We’re excited to have positive recognition that we’ve proven our point. We were targeting narrow and now we’ve expanded, brought more people in, and shown them what we have done at Redondo Beach and Saltwater State Park. We have validity and good science behind it, and passionate professionals, which will drive us in that direction.
J: Speaking of Redondo Beach, how has the reef and sea grass project been going?
JT: We have now received the entire permit package from Environmental Science Associations. I forwarded the package to each and every necessary government agencies (Department of Fish and Wildlife, Department of Natural Resources, Department of Ecology, Army Corps of Engineers, and the Coast Guard). We’re now waiting to hear back from them… for the reef at Redondo. I keep checking in with them. We’re now setting up a meeting with the city of Des Moines so we can let people and the city council where we are with this project. The reef design is now totally complete and has been accepted by everybody; it’s a fabulous reef design. I’m waiting on a call back from American Construction Company, [which] we will probably have install the reef.
RW: We’ve done a lot of surveys and have met virtually every requirement. We’ve laid out transect sticks, set up the areas, and documented it. We’ve got some great talent we’re grouping with. The science partnership with the MaST Center, I think, goes a long way toward helping out credibility. It’s going to help them teach and improve that science. Redondo is going to be a unique place and I’m pleased with our connection with the city of Des Moines. Redondo has one of the top dive sites, and with some improvements, this will put a spotlight on the necessity to upgrade the facility.
J: Going forward, how will WSA fund its operations?
JT: With WSA’s new website up and running we now have public access to make donations and join as members. Donation groups and grant organizations now have access to look at us: we have a fundraiser. The next project after Redondo is probably going to be Port Angeles.
RW: We have opportunities to do special events that we can support or make our own. We have the credibility and going towards different organizations for help and funding… there’s some really wonderful support groups. It’s tough. We have to operate. We have things to do and people think it magically comes out of someone’s pocket. We have a wonderful fundraising person, Sally, who does this professionally. We’re building this, and that puts us in a unique position. We’re one of few organizations that can be physically, structurally, seen.
For more details on WSA, including ways to donate and volunteer, visit www.wascuba.org.