Local diving group plans artificial wreck for exploring

Posted: Thursday, August 08, 2002

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) -- A group of local divers is cleaning up a derelict 40-foot sailboat they plan to sink off the Auke Village Recreation Area in what they call an ''aquatic enhancement project.''

Avid Juneau scuba diver Larry Musarra filed a permit request with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers earlier this month as part of what has been a grueling process to try and create an artificial reef that is easily accessible to Juneau divers.

''We've been kicking this idea around for a couple of years,'' said Musarra, who has teamed up with Channel Dive Shop owner John Lachelt.

After a failed attempt to acquire a historic boat from Haines, Musarra and Lachelt caught wind of an aging sailboat docked at Trucano Construction near the Douglas Bridge.

''It's a nice, nice boat for what we want to do,'' said Musarra.

He said they plan to ''Swiss cheese it,'' by cutting large holes throughout the boat to provide safe and easy access for divers to explore the vessel, which is to be placed at a depth of about 50 feet.

John Leeds, manager of the Juneau field office of the Corps of Engineers, said before the permit can be issued a 30-day public review process and 50-day state review process must be completed.

Leeds said the sunken boat would have to be well marked and in deep enough water to not be a navigational hazard.

Leeds said if the permit is granted and the boat is sunk, it would have to be put on maps and charts as a wreck or artificial reef.

The divers don't want to litter the area, just create an artificial haven for marine life to congregate and prosper for divers to enjoy, said Musarra.

''My picture wasn't to have an underwater junkyard,'' he said. He wants, ''a road system underwater in a safe and protected environment. Auke Rec is the ideal place.''

Lachelt and Musarra said they are hoping local divers will use the site, as well as respect it.

''We want divers to take pictures and leave bubbles,'' said Lachelt.

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