The Yokamu

Hello Divers, Some of may have heard the news of the possibility of having a new wreck to dive. Debbie Williams from WKRG's article "GULF SHORES, Alabama -- It's been months in the making but the 270 foot freighter the Yokamu has finally reached it's new home on Pleasure Island. A two hour delay outside the mouth of Mobile Bay delayed its arrival but once it got inside the bay and then into the intracoastal waterway, it was clear sailing. "I'm hopeful Alabama can come up with the money for the ship and we can get it sunk here." It's the brain child of Orange Beach businessman David Walter. "I just thought, I'm going to buy that ship and I'm going to bring it home. I hope somebody will make an artificial reef out of it." It will be the star of a reality show called "Reefmaker" being produced for The Weather Channel but the reality is it could be a big boost for the local economy. "It could be amazing," says Mitch Craft of Downunder Dive Shop. "Finally we could have a shipwreck that is big enough and sunk in the right place that all the divers can go see it." Craft says having an artificial reef like this off Alabama's coast would be huge. "Having a ship of this caliber in shallow enough water to where all divers can access it would be amazing." Walter's agrees, "I really want to to see it here. We don't have any full size ships off the coast of Alabama. Pensacola has 12." Turning the ship into an artificial reef is estimated to cost about half a million dollars. Alabama has already pledged 100 thousand dollars to the project. Florida is also in the competition." Mitch is right. This wreck would be a huge boost to our local economy and ecology. The Oriskany alone has brought thousands of tourists to Pensacola. We could easily do the same. We have the numbers to prove it. Is you have seen the Sidemount Training video filmed in Gulf Shores you will be amazed at how dilapidated the Navy Tug appears to be in the video. Our old right of passage training site the Southwind Barge (3mile Barge) is almost burried, Atlantis is falling over, Notch Barge is crumbling, and many more are fading away. It's time to step up, Alabama. Look at what Florida has done. 12 wrecks in just a few years. This thing is going to cost around $400,000 to scuttle. Alabama has pledged a quarter of it. What can we do? Demand that we get this ship. Show Alabama that we will use it and make something of it. When the diving community steps up as ambassadors to the aquatic world. Awesome things can happen. Let's preserve our beloved sport for future generations on the Alabama Gulf Coast. Stop by Down Under and sign a petition to show your support for a renewed reeding program. Tell your friends and help get the word out to the diving community. Let's get the Yokamu and see what happens after we show it's success. -Bryan Alabama Artificial Reef Program Facts Alabama's Artificial Reef Program is the product of a cooperative agreement between the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Marine Resources Division of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The program is the culmination of many meetings, letters, reports and workshops between various user groups within the coastal area and while the system addressed on this page is the current program, it is intended to be dynamic with changes occurring as technology develops on artificial reef construction. Approximately 1,200 square miles of offshore waters are included in the artificial reef general permit areas of Alabama, making this the largest artificial reef program in the U. S. (Reef Zone Map) The five permit areas are set forth inside bold lines on the map and are called the Hugh Swingle General Permit Area, the Don Kelley General Permit Area - North, the Don Kelley General Permit Area - South, the Tatum - Winn General Permit Area - North, and the Tatum - Winn General Permit Area - South. Within these general permit areas, artificial reefs can be constructed by individuals by acquiring a permit from the Marine Resources Division. Offices of the Marine Resources Division are located in Gulf Shores (Telephone 251-968-7576) and on Dauphin Island (Telephone 251-861-2882). Both of these offices have individuals trained in artificial reef permitting and can schedule an inspection of reef material in a timely manner. In order for individuals to construct artificial reefs outside of the general permit areas previously mentioned, a permit must be obtained from the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers pursuant to Section 10 of the River and Harbor Act of 1899, Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, and Section 103 of the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act of 1972, as amended. The advantages to utilizing the General Permit Areas for artificial reef construction are numerous, however, the three main advantages are: (A) a permit can be acquired in most instances within one (1) working day after the request is made. (B) While the specific area on which an individuals' artificial reef is not classified, the location is not publicized, and (C) the chances of artificial reefs within the general permit area coming in conflict with other users are reduced. (Artificial Reef Construction Protocol)