Dive teams pool resources for busy season

A U.S. Navy diver prepares for an emergency cold-water dive in January at McNary Dam to assist with a crack repair in the North Shore Fish Ladder.  (Corps of Engineers photo)

A U.S. Navy diver prepares for an emergency cold-water dive in January at McNary Dam to assist with a crack repair in the North Shore Fish Ladder. (Corps of Engineers photo)

 

Partnerships provide mentor opportunities

By  Rick Benoit, Operations Division, and Amy Echols, Public Affairs Office

(Corps of Engineers graphic)

(Corps of Engineers graphic)

Divers from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dive team buddied up with U.S. Navy and commercial divers to complete their latest, and busiest, work season. The team completed about 50 jobs in six months – some as close to home as Bonneville Lock and Dam and others as far away as Japan.

Portland District serves as the management hub for the regionalized Rapid Response/Technical Dive-ROV (remotely-operated vehicle) Team, authorized by commanders and supported by divers and logistics staff from both Portland and Walla Walla districts.

“This season was extremely busy, beyond previous years,” said Portland District’s deputy district dive coordinator and ROV program manager Todd Manny. “It’s been crazy busy–just how we like it!”

U.S. Navy dive teams from Bangor, Washington, and the Navy Undersea Warfare Center in Keyport, Washington provided critical operations and safety expertise during several of the Portland and Walla Walla project dives and ROV missions.

This longstanding partnership with the Navy helped the Corps to collaborate, execute and/or oversee 31 dive operations at eight Corps dams in the Northwestern Division, Manny said.

The team completed 10 underwater missions considered as either emergency, time critical or out-of-schedule, meaning the dives would eliminate imminent threats to life, property or operations. For example, the Portland District dive team quickly coordinated repairs to fix a leaking crack in the fish ladder exit on McNary Dam’s Washington shore, which threatened worker safety. They also corrected a water flow problem at Cougar Dam’s new portable floating fish collector that prohibited fish passage.

Gear is set on deck carefully for an upcoming dive at Foster Dam. (Corps of Engineers photo)

Gear is set on deck carefully for an upcoming dive at Foster Dam. (Corps of Engineers photo)

The Keyport and Bangor Navy teams provided nearly 30 days of safe, efficient and cost effective diving on 10 missions. Keyport Master Chief Petty Officer Chad Leaman, master diver and 25-year Navy veteran, describes the work as exciting, totally out of the ordinary and challenging: “People are always amazed when I tell them we’re doing work on a Columbia River dam. With that experience and our relationship with the Portland District, we’ve been referred to other Corps District jobs.”

The composition of mission teams depends primarily on the schedule and the skills and abilities needed to completethe tasks safely and efficiently. Preparing for dives requires some familiarity with the dam’s infrastructure, so teams will often practice their dives and actions on land if a task or area is new to them. The Portland dive office reviews all dive plans prior to water entry and a registered engineer frequently verifies after-dive reports.

“These operational training exercises are one of many benefits of working at Corps facilities,” said Navy diver Chief Petty Officer Brett Eversmann of the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard Dive Locker. A dive locker is a diver’s “fire station” where they get their assignments and store their gear. Eversmann adds that divers from partnering organizations can familiarize themselves with Corps operations and facilities, an advantage in the event of an unforeseen disaster. “This collaboration provides rigging, inspection, cutting and welding, and mobilization experience that is crucial to a junior diver’s progression within in the Navy diving community.”

“Few other dive lockers are ever afforded an opportunity to dive on these rivers or on operating dams,” adds Chief Petty Officer Jared Butler, a Navy dive team supervisor with 15 Corps diving missions under his belt. “It is exciting because you can be doing an inspection on one dive and drilling, fixing and making recommendations that might save thousands of dollars on another dive.”

Manny, himself a retired Navy diver, agrees, “These joint missions are an excellent example of a win-win relationship for the Corps. The other dive teams get exceptional training and work experience, and the Corps gets jobs done well and safely.”

Corps and U.S. Navy divers work on highly technical assignments

An inspection of a waterfront structure at Fort McNair in Washington, DC, takes Philadelphia diver Steve England, P.E. into some ugly water during a mission organized by the joint Portland/Walla Walla dive team. (Corps of Engineers photo)

An inspection of a waterfront structure at Fort McNair in Washington, DC, takes Philadelphia diver Steve England, P.E. into some ugly water during a mission organized by the joint Portland/Walla Walla dive team. (Corps of Engineers photo)

Here are some examples of dives and tasks often completed in nearly freezing water, with no in-water visibility and among piles of floating organic debris and manufactured trash.

  • Conduct a below-water ultrasonic inspection of spillway gates to determine structural integrity and the ability to hold water back at Bonneville Lock and Dam
  • Inspect removable spillway weir skin plates at Walla Walla District’s Lower Granite Dam for rust, corrosion and structural weakness. These weirs are multi-million dollar structures that assist with fish passage through dams.
  • Repair a Lower Granite Dam juvenile fish facility’s water pump to assist with fish passage. The team cleared the trash rack, cleaned bulkhead slots and sills and assisted with the placement of bulkhead to allow workers to drain the pump chamber and work in the dry.
  • Survey for and locate unexploded ordinance in Naha Port (Okinawa, Japan) and Honolulu, Hawaii.
  • Perform engineer-certified structural inspections of waterfront facilities such as piers, seawalls and docks for the Department of Army’s Infrastructure Management Command and the Corp’s Engineering Research and Development Center in Mississippi.
  • Investigate illegal dumping of debris by contractor-operator dredge for Seattle District.
  • Assist with removal of water intake valves at John Martin Dam in Hasty, Colorado.
  • Release immovable bulkhead at Fish Ladder Entrance Lamprey Prototype at McNary Dam on the Columbia River.