Debris removal under way in Brentwood Bay

Divers cleaning up portions of Tod Inlet for SeaChange.

Divers jump into the waters of Tod Inlet in a debris removal process.

Divers jump into the waters of Tod Inlet in a debris removal process.

The debris removal process is underway in Tod Inlet as dive rs began work last week on removing various items found underwater.

The debris removal is just one of the two major restoration projects SeaChange Marine Conservation Society is working on in the inlet. The other is the beach enhancement, which will begin once government approvals are in place.

The PNR caught up with Sarah Verstegen, SeaChange operations manager, when the team was on their third day of diving.

SeaChange is the lead organization and they’ve hired a dive team to do the work.

“So our usual dive team are all people who are self-employed on this, so they’re working with SeaChange but they’re their own entity,” said Verstegen.

So long as they don’t go deeper than 60 feet and as long as they have good contact with each other, Workers Compensation says they can have a three person team, with one person always staying above the surface.

The crew already completed a sonar scan of the bottom of the area in which they are working. They have placed the dive boat close to that section. White markers have been placed where the divers have spotted something and they begin searching there.

“We spent three days using the sonar on the boat to find potential debris locations, so there are about 150 marks on the sonar that we’ll be investigating,” said Verstegen.

If divers found something on the sonar that looked like it was something that needed to be removed, they would make a GPS mark.

“And then we went back and we dropped the floats … at each mark and then the diver goes down on each of the floats and takes a 10 metre long line and then swims a circle at two-metre intervals…” she said, adding divers will explore a 20-metre circle at each float, looking for debris.

The dive crew has already done one whole section. Any debris left on the bottom was material too large for removal by hand and will require a barge with a crane on board. It will  come in to do the big pieces which could include a huge chunk of concrete or sunken boats.

Verstegen said they had their summer staff two years ago use an underwater camera. They  could see the outline of a boat at the bottom of the water that looked to be a 14 footer.

“There was nothing left beyond that because it had been there so long it was gone,” she said.

So far, there are three or four potential hulls that they marked but won’t know their condition until they get there.

Other than potential sunken boats, the crew has found a stack of tires, blocks, miscellaneous items like bottles, pieces of sewer pipe and an old water tank.

The cost of the project, with in-kind donations included, is $160,500.