Opps, I gave you some bad info, Mt. Storm is now closed to shore diving but you can launch a boat and dive from it away from boat traffic and fishing lines.
Mt Storm Closure
One of our popular dive sites has been effectively closed to us. Mt Storm Lake in Davis, WV is an artificial lake built in 1965 to cool the nearby coal-fire power plant, heating the lake a good 20-30F degrees above any other local dive sites. This makes it a very popular location for diving in between traditional dive seasons. Unfortunately, the site is also very popular with other water sports, namely boating and fishing, which don’t usually mix well with scuba.
In recent years the ability to swim, dive, and boat in up to 90F+ water has brought record numbers to Mt Storm lake. The parking lot is overflowing, but that is only the tip of the iceberg. Space is waning on the beaches, docks, and loading ramp bringing boats and other vehicles dangerously close to swimmers and divers. In order to prevent an accident, swimming was prohibited and diving restricted to a small area to the right of the boat ramp. This didn’t really change much for most divers, as we had always stayed within the confines of the "Diving Area" except for the occasional diver who had to enter closer to the boat ramp because he/ she had trouble climbing up and down the path set aside for us.
The path is actually pretty steep and the steps dug into the hillside are uneven and quite tall. Even fit divers have some difficulty with them after a long dive. Children and those with knee and hip problems find them almost impossible. Still, most divers trekked up and down the hillside between dives and gave boaters a wide berth (which is more than I would say for them). Fishermen and other boaters routinely ignore our dive flags and cast into diving areas or zip by overhead without concern for the lives they could be jeopardizing.
Swimmers were angry that they were the only ones being punished (ignoring the fact that they had caused the problem), so instead of explain things or study the problem the WV-DNR simply bowed to the loudest voices and cut off all shore access period. Fair is fair right? Wrong. A petition was circulated by divers and dive shops to regain access to the lake. Instructors and other divers attended hearings and tried to have their voices heard in the matter only to be told that since boaters and fishermen paid for licences, they had more rights to the lake than us. Temporary access was granted until the matter could be researched further. This was in September of 2011.
I had been planning an early spring trip down to Mt Storm to certify a few students and just have a good time. My dive shop had made this trip a few times in the past, and we always had a great time. We liked to stay at the local state park. Black Water Falls has some beautiful cabins and an even nicer lodge. Since it’s only about 10-15 minutes from the dive site, it made for a perfect place to stay. I was getting ready to make reservations when one of my dive masters saw a notice on the Dominion Power website (they own the power plant and the lake) that Scuba Diving was prohibited again!
I thought surely this is a mistake. Since I take care of my own website, I know how little details can go unnoticed and are often forgotten. The ban had been lifted in September, I was sure of it. I reassured my staff that everything was in order, but I would investigate anyway. I went through the contact that Dominion had provided for that particular power station. Carl Ford was very quick to respond to my emails. He said that since WV-DNR leased the land for the boat ramp it was their call, but that he had been working with them to find a solution for all parties. I tried to make a case for the contributions divers make to the local economy, that we cleaned up after ourselves and often brought trash out of the lake making things cleaner and safer for everyone. Unfortunately, about a week later he told me that they all agreed that the best solution for everyone was to only allow access to the lake by boat. We could dive there if we wanted to, but we had to enter the water from a boat.
This information was very disappointing to me. How would it be safer to further crowd the boat ramps and have boats more now intentionally above the diviers’ heads? I expressed my feelings as diplomatically as I could and offered to help with alternative solutions and to rally the other dive shops. He thanked me and that was that. As a business owner, I understand having to justify the time you spend on different projects. In some ways this very blog is a waste of my resources. So what Mr Ford was actually telling me was "We don’t get any money for you to dive there. There are more boaters and fishermen using the lake and we really can’t afford to piss off our customers. We’re hoping that putting this unnecessary restriction on you will keep you all away and that solves our problem as far as we’re concerned."
So, long story short, Mt Storm is closed to divers because of the IGNORANCE of the many and the APATHY of a few. The real solution is education on dive flags, some signage, maybe a little landscaping, and a handful of buoys to mark off separate swimming and diving areas. If you want to see this decision reversed and help create a lasting solution please contact one or all of the following:
Carl R Ford: firstname.lastname@example.org - Director F&H Station III
West Virginia Division of Natural Resources: email@example.com