Farnsworth update - still open for business

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Posted by Ken Kurtis on November 10, 2009 at 22:40:43:

This is a follow-up to Steve's post below. Thought you might be interested in what happened as it illustrates why you need to not only have a tenable position but it also helps to know the players and how the system works.

I knew that there was a "suggestion" in the BRTF proposals that said "Recommend a mooring at Farnsworth." This is something that's been debated for years and there are reasons to do it and reasons not to do it. But it's something that has a LOT of facets to be discussed and resolved and it's not as simply as just saying, "Just do it." It's something that should be fully dicussed and vetted and that takes time.

So I was at the meeting today (also as a member of the Statewide Interest Group) to suggest that they add the words "if feasible" to the recommendation, mainly so it didn't come off as being cast in stone.

Before the meeting, I talked with some of the RSG members and gave them a copy of a memo I'd written to the BRTF a week ago detailing the issues with Farnsworth moorings. My point was simply that if we're going to do it, let's do it right. And if we're not going to do it, let's make sure we're not doing it for the right reasons. But let's not do a half-hearted effort.

Steve Benevides spoke eloquently to the concerns I addressed during the one-minute he had to address the BRTF during the round-robin RSG comments. So imagine my shock/surprise when it was proposed by Meg Caldwell that Farnsworth be designated as a no-anchor zone and that a mooring option should be investigated.

The problem with this IMHO was that, with that wording, Farnsworth would become a no-anchor zone the day the MLPA decisions took effect. It would easily be another two or three years before a mooring system - if it's even feasible - could be installed.

That would mean that Farnsworth would become a "No Dive" zone for that time because the only way to dive it would be to live-boat it, and no dive captain I know of has said they're comfortable taking a group of recreational divers out there to dive it that way. Too much danger of missing the high spot, or drifting away, or going too deep, and getting too spread out. Simply makes an already tricky dive unacceptably risky. And if the moorings never get installed, the no-anchor provision would have still been in place.

So during lunch I discussed the issue with Steve and others. I thought Meg's motion was simply poorly worded and didn't - I hoped - express her true intent nor did she or the other members of the BRTF really realize what the unintended consequences would be.

Shortly before the BRTF reconvened, I made sure I put copies of my memo to them (which I just "happened" to have with me) on their chairs. I also talked with some of the MLPA staff and a contact I have at DF&G.

There was more BRTF/RSG discussion and comment and then we broke again to fill out speaker cards. If you can get people to cede time to you, you get as much as 3 minutes. Otherwise, it's 30 seconds. So I want to thank Debbie Karimoto for getting some of the folks with her to cede time to me as it resulted in my being given 2 minutes.

As Steve mentioned, I gave a rather impassioned speech that included the prediction that this would have a devastating economic impact on the dive boats if they had to forgo Farnsworth trips, and that there was a good chance that divers live-boating would be injured or killed.

I then when on to suggest that we had it backwards and if the BRTF wanted to pursue this option, then we should first decide if the moorings are feasible/doable, and THEN - once they're installed - got to a no-anchor option.

I guess I got their attention because shortly after I sat down, one of the MLPA staff came over to me and said, "They want you to write down the language that you think works."

So what I wrote was:

"In order to minimize the impact on purple coral at Farnsworth:

1. Recommend the DF&G study the feasibility of moorings at Farnsworth large enough for commercial diving and fishing vessels.
2. If it is feasible, and once moorings are installed, recommend that a non-anchor provision be instituted for Farnsworth."

Much to my relief, at the end of the public comment, BRTF member Greg Schem announced they'd thought about it some more and wanted to amend the Farnsworth regulations. He then read into the record what I wrote. The motion carried unanimously, and then the overall Preferred Alternative, including the revised Farnsworth language, also passed by a 5-0 vote.

So in my opinion, we just dodged a bullet. I think it was unintentional but I think we would have lost our Farnsworth access due to safety considerations. And the other nice thing is that we will have a formal process to finally and officially evaluate the feasibility of a mooring system and see what needs to be done to make it happen or why it can't be done if it's not feasilbe.

So that's it. Long day but a victory at the end of the day. (Or more correctly, at 5:42PM when the vote was taken.) Thought you might like to know.

- Ken
Ken Kurtis
NAUI Instr. #5936
Owner, Reef Seekers Dive Co.
Beverly Hills, CA

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