On Sunday August 30th, 2020, The Skamania County Sheriff’s Office Dive Rescue / Recovery Team, in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument and Pacific N/W Research Station-Olympic Forestry Science Laboratory conducted a recon dive operation in Spirit Lake. The dive was carried out after months of planning, surveys, use permits, and cooperation between agencies. Spirit Lake, sitting on the base of Mt. St. Helens is still off limits to the public due to being an ongoing scientific research area.
In preparations for the overflow tunnel project upgrades, predicted to start summer 2021, the dive team surveyed lake access, water conditions, bottom topography, and other hazards. The original tunnel was completed in 1985, built to help prevent catastrophic sediment dam failure and flooding down the Toutle and Cowlitz Valley.
Because Spirit Lake is entirely in Skamania County, the dive team was preparing in the event of a water emergency during the construction next summer. The logistics for the dive operation were challenging due to the need to haul dive and support gear over two miles into the lake by ATV. The lake itself also had concerns being a high-altitude dive, thousands of trees both submerged and floating, and now invasive mud snails. Divers had to decontaminate dive gear before and after the dive to prevent spreading of the invasive species to other waters.
Cooperation between agencies is paramount to make Skamania and surrounding counties a safer place to live, work, and recreate.