CO-OPS Divers Get Ready for a Busy Season
The entire team of the Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services (CO-OPS) Pacific Operations Branch (POB) during a fall protection class. From left to right: Robert Daniels, Steve Bassett, Drew Maczko, Keith Brkich, Rolland Brail, Dave Sinson, Mark Bailey, Eric White, Aliya Jamil, and Erin Dodge.
The Tides and Currents office, officially known as the Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services (or CO-OPS). is responsible for providing accurate, reliable and timely tides, water levels, currents, and other oceanographic information. Because of this mission, a large number of its employees in the Field Operations Division (FOD) are NOAA Divers, in charge of installing, inspecting, and maintaining an array of instruments across the United States coasts and those of its territories. The data the divers collect through these instruments supports safe and efficient navigation, sound ecosystem stewardship, planning for coastal hazard responses, and furthers the understanding of climate change. Unlike other NOAA Divers who might work in areas that attract recreational divers (such as National Marine Sanctuaries), CO-OPS divers often work in murky harbor waters on shallow dives. They are often away from their home offices to reach the hundreds of stations they must visit each year to meet their maintenance schedule.
Last week, at the NOAA Western Regional Center (WRC) in Seattle, Washington, an unusual event took place: the whole crew of the CO-OPS Field Operations Division (FOD) Pacific Operations Branch (POB) gathered just outside of their offices. In preparation for a busy diving season, the team took advantage of this rare opportunity to conduct team training and operations. Using the NOAA Diving Center’s training tower as a stage, the team conducted fall training earlier last week. On Thursday, the team partook in a dive to assist the WRC facilities.
The WRC pier’s oil boom is usually held in place by anchored floats, but recently one of the middle floats had failed and sunk. The facility’s management contacted the CO-OPS diving team to assist them in replacing the buoy. The dive was both an opportunity to fix the oil boom and get everyone in the water together to increase proficiency: they swum a search pattern to locate the anchor and successfully attached the new buoy and anchor line to it.
As often as not the CO-OPS divers are working in cold water, in dry suits. This dive was no different: the water was a chilly 43 degrees! These NOAA Divers are now scattering across the Pacific coast to make sure the water levels that so many of us rely on for our safety and to keep maritime commerce humming continue to function. They have now started their 2017 season in earnest.