The Washington Scuba Alliance (WSA) and a variety of Tacoma area partners are establishing a new enhanced reef system at Titlow Beach. Working closely with the City of Tacoma, Metropolitan Parks of Tacoma (MPT), Bellarmine Prep School, and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), WSA hopes to give the aged former terry terminal a much needed make over.
By John Tapley, Editor of Scuba H2O Adventures Magazine
As part of a state-wide initiative to remove creosote-treated debris from nearby bodies of water, Washington State has been committed to removing pilings from the Titlow Beach terminal. Because the area is as a marine preserve recognized by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the City of Tacoma is working carefully with WSA to ensure any damage to the marine ecosystem is minimized. Participants in the project plan to install rock piles on the site, and then carefully transfer sea life from the terminal’s wooden pilings; the pilings will remain until the new reef system is safely installed and secured.
“We want [the sea life] to migrate on their own or help them along before the pilings are pulled out,” explains WSA president Jim Trask.
Founded in 1992 by divers in the Northwest, WSA is a group of dive industry and community leaders who work with a variety of clubs and businesses to become a lobbying body for the local dive industry. The alliance initially started out to sink ships off Washington waters, then changed its purpose to focus on enhancing areas already in need of renewal. Divers and marine lovers local and abroad have WSA to thank for many improvements in beach access and signage, mooring buoys, and artificial reef habitats throughout the state.
The project began to take shape late last year when Bellarmine Prep School science faculty member Ron Nilsen contacted Trask. The school has conducted scientific research at Titlow Beach for over two decades, and in the mid-2000s, tried to upgrade the ferry terminal from its deteriorating condition. Adding to this project was Doug Fraser of MPT, who had worked with Trask previously when he worked with the MPT’s Marine Advisory Council.
The City of Tacoma is another important ally in this project as it owns the Titlow Beach property and much of its surrounding waters. Working in conjunction with the other interested parties, city and state agencies will conduct meetings to ensure the planning stages go off without a hitch and proper permitting is acquired.
Meanwhile, Bellermine Prep is working on the design of the rock pilings, and is planning on including carefully measured dolphin statues to add vertical structure to the new environment, and provide markers for interested divers. Once the reef is installed, the school will continue to conduct research on native flora and fauna as part of its marine science program.
As the foundation is laid out, WSA will work with these groups and seek funding to fuel the project. If all goes according to plan, Trask hopes to see the project physically take shape in 2017.
In addition to the Titlow Beach Project, WSA is also eagerly working on a number of other pursuits within The Evergreen State’s waters. Current WSA initiatives include working on areas such as Redondo Beach, Salt Water State Park, Camano Island State Park, and Les Davis Park. All of these projects keep with WSA’s ultimate goals, as Trask explains:
“Our main mission is to enhance diving in the Northwest by increasing dive access through dive attractions, promoting conservation through artificial reefing, increasing tourism in the state by working with different communities, and taking concerns to Olympia in order to make things happen.”
WSA is currently seeking funding through grants, donations, fundraising, and other monetary sources. To lend your support, and to find more details on ongoing WSA projects, visit www.wascuba.org.