This article, while specific to one dive site near Seattle, illustrates how scuba myths can get entrenched and how, with a few phone calls you can help fellow divers.
The Edmonds Underwater Park (more formerly know as the Bruce Higgins Underwater Park) is located not far from Seattle, Washington and just north of the Edmonds Kingston Ferry Landing. It includes acres of underwater trails leading to sunken vessels and other artificial reefs that are home to a wide array of sea life. Almost 25,000 scuba dives take place hear each year.
There was a lot of confusing information about diving on the De Lion Dry dock at the Edmonds Underwater park. The dry dock is one of the nicest features in the park. The rumors going around were wild and scary. The stories were variations on, “if you are caught near the dry dock homeland security will arrest you and fine you thousands of dollars.” It is an urban scuba myth.
After extensive phone conversations with
the US Coast Guard/Homeland Security, Helmut Steel of WS Ferries Security, Bruce Higgins (as in Bruce Higgins Underwater Park) and Brian Macintosh, Director of Parks and Recreation for the city of Edmonds, all agree diving the dry dock is allowed and basically legal.
The only rule that does apply is the 33 CFR 165.1317 (from the Security and Safety Zone; Large Passenger Vessel Protection, Puget Sound and adjacent waters, Washington. Code of Federal Regulations – Title 33: Navigation and Navigable Waters (December 2005) ). This ruling says that you must stay 25 yards away from the Ferry when it is the dock and 100 yards away when it is underway. As no one could tell us exactly how close are to the ferry when you are at the dry dock at low tide. It may be a good idea to visit the dry-docks between ferries just to be extra compliant.
The Parks and Ferry departments do want to encourage all divers to help make sure only experienced divers dive the dry docks or in any part of the park near the ferry and during favorable currents (leading away from the ferry). Brian Macintosh did point out that since people thought it was illegal they have have had less incidents of divers drifting into the ferry danger zone.
Brian also said that they are making a concerted effort to sink more large and interesting features further north in the park (away from the ferries). They recently sunk an old Lopez Island ferry dock wing on top of the deteriorated tug, the Triumph. The wing is 130 feet long.
If you are not from the Pacific Northwest, we hope you come, visit and dive. Edmonds Underwater Park is a grand place to start your journey and to get a preview of world class diving that “tropical-only” divers never get to see.