FISHERS LANDING Shallow water at Swan Bay, where in past years state police divers set out for their annual training drills, has this month forced organizers to launch from friendlier waters.
Training began Monday, and will continue until the first week of October, for 68 troopers from across the state who are practicing search-and-rescue missions and recovery and exploration details at various locations and depths on the river, according to Mark A. Knowles, commander of the Jefferson County Special Tactics and Rescue team. Mr. Knowles is working with state police in planning scenarios for various drills for divers.
State police officers from Rhode Island, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts also are participating.
A move was necessary, Mr. Knowles said, because the water level is so low in Swan Bay that we can barely get our boats out through all the seaweed.
So, while troopers are quartered at Swan Bay, their boats are docked at property owned by P.J. Simao, who is allowing the operations to launch from his site, just southwest of the Thousand Islands Bridge.
I called him and explained our situation, and he was very generous about it, Mr. Knowles said.
Six state police patrol boats have been brought to the St. Lawrence River for the various training sessions. Mr. Knowles said training began with drift diving beneath the span to familiarize divers with river currents. Additional missions include exploration of a 19th-century shipwreck, searches of docks for simulated bombs and deep-water exercises.
The divers also will experience swift-water training in the Black River in Watertown, Mr. Knowles said.
The county STAR team is providing its hyperbaric chamber in case a diver requires emergency treatment for the bends, he said.
Water levels are low because of the unseasonable weather last winter and this summers drought. Every month since March, the International St. Lawrence River Board of Control restricted the downstream flow through the river at the Robert H. Moses-Saunders Power Dam, Massena, to regain water that was lost on Lake Ontario by the winters increased flow. The above-average discharge at the dam released about 5 inches more than normal, and about 4 inches of that amount has been restored since March.
Experts say all of the Great Lakes levels are below average.