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Issues to resolve along with the moorings themsevles


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Posted by Ken Kurtis on November 12, 2009 at 22:34:09:

First, I think the mooring discussion below has been terrific. It truly shows how BBSes like this can be put to good use to ai rout community feeling and thinking with these types of discussions.

Secondly, I'm not sure what the timeframe will be on this. In all liklihood, the F&G Commission will approve the BRTF Preferred Alternative at their December 9 meeting in Long Beach. My guess is that the new regs will then take effect on January 1, 2011. And the way the Fransworth mooring amendment was worded, it's not necessarily tied to the timeline of the Preferred Alternative but mandates a feasibility study first before a mooring system can go in and/or before a no-anchor provision can be included.

And whatever the process is (I think it'll be more streamlined and less formal than the overall MLPA process), I will do whatever I can to ensure that those who would like to be heard get a chance to have their say, whether that's in person, in writing, or through a website.

Also, don't lose sight that this will not be perceived as a diving-only issue. The fishing concerns are going to want to weigh in as well and they've always been much better organized than divers ever have. So this may be a tougher road to hoe than you think.

That all being said, I thought I'd share with you a note that I sent to the BRTF and have copied to DF&G about the overall issues. It's not as simple as just installing moorings. Those of you with an interest in this, whether pro or con, will need to think about the other issues as well and be prepared to address them along with the engineering required for a mooring.

And NONE of what follows even addresses the issue of who actually pays for all of this or how.

What I sent:

I'm a longtime scuba instructor (NAUI - since 1980), dive shop owner (Reef Seekers in Beverly Hills), dive charterer (in other words, I hire/charter dive boats to take my customers out diving), and am a three-time member of the SIG for the MLPA. I also frequently run charter trips to Farnsworth Bank, so I feel that I'm very familiar with Farnsworth as it relates to diving.

I am writing to you asking you to delete one sentence in the document you will consider recommending on November 10. This requested deletion will have no effect on any existing or proposed MPA.

A Farnsworth mooring system has been discussed, certainly within the diving community, for years and there are people with strong feelings on both sides of the issue.

Some of the unresolved issues include:

USAGE - Bonaire in the Netherland Antiles is frequently cited as a prime example of a mooring system that works. And it does. But that's also because of a couple of reasons that absolutely don't apply to Southern California. (1) Moorings are only used by commercial dive boats because there's very little private boat traffic. (2) You can only tie up to a mooring for a maximum of two hours. (3) There are 86 moorings in Bonaire, many of them no more than a few hundred yards apart. If the mooring you want is taken, you can easily move to the next one. At Catalina, the nearest dive site is a good 45-60 minute run away. (4) At Farnsworth, you could only have three or four moorings at most. They could easily fill up.

ENFORCEMENT - At Bonaire, enforcement is handled by STINAPA-Bonaire, whose office is along the shoreline in the middle of the island. With a pair of binoculars, they can monitor probably 80% of the moorings from their office. And they can quickly respond to deal with any violations. Not so at Farnsworth. Absent a permanently-stationed warden, there is simply no effective way to monitor rules and regulations that would be necessary to make a mooring system work.

UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES - A mooring would have to be able to accommodate the largest boats. For diving, that would be the Great Escape at 80-feet long and 97 tons displacement. A mooring to hold that size boat would have to be massive. If the mooring was placed on or near the high spot, you'd end up destroying more purple coral to install the mooring than you would save by having the mooring in place.

DIVING SAFETY - If you move the mooring off the reef itself so that it can be the proper size without damaging the reef it痴 intended to save, you'll be back in a situation where divers do not have a reference line to take them down directly to their reef. As the wind shifts, the boats could swing on the mooring line and find themselves very far away from the intended high spot, forcing divers to make long surface swims, or causing them to drop into deeper water than they intended or thought they were in. A mooring set in Farnsworth痴 deep waters off the main reef potentially turns the dive site into a diver killing zone.

MAINTENANCE - Moorings at Farnsworth would be in the open ocean, miles off of Catalina痴 backside, and subjected to all the rough weather Farnsworth gets. Who will be responsible for maintaining these moorings and paying whatever maintenance costs that will be required? Who will have responsibility/liability if a mooring breaks loose?

LIABILITY - Given that Farnsworth lies far off of Catalina's backside, it is likely that some careless boater is going to unintentionally plow into these moorings at some point. Aside from the danger to the boat and passengers, who will have the liability in such a case. Will it be the state? Catalina? The Blue Ribbon Task Force? This is a highly volatile issue that's never been fully examined because there are simply too many variables.

The ostensible reason for a mooring system at Farnsworth is to protect the purple hydrocoral from anchor damage. This is a red herring. I personally dive Farnsworth four to six times per year from commercial charter dive boats. 99% of the time I am descending to the top of the reef via the boat's anchor line which means I should be descending into a vast wasteland of broken and damaged purple coral. That simply isn't the case. The purple coral at Farnsworth is healthy and extensive.

Yes, there's anchor damage in the relatively limited area where we dive and anchor. But that's also a very small portion of the overall reeef. Given all the issues involved here, let's make sure we're not solving a problem that doesn't really exist.

I could go on but my point is that this is not as simple as "Let's put down a mooring to save the purple hydrocoral." It's an issue that deserves much more study and thought, more than you have time to give it presently.

I plan on being at the meeting November 10 and can try to answer any questions you might have.

- Ken
覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧
Ken Kurtis
Member - MLPA Statewide Interests Group (SIG)
NAUI Instructor #5936
Owner, Reef Seekers Dive Co.
Beverly Hills, CA 90213
(310) 652-4990
www.reefseekers.com



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