An armada of Shasta County Sheriff jetboats and inflatable boats descended upon the construction site at the Cypress Ave. Bridge for maneuvers intended to simulate potential rescue scenarios. Divers clad in full wet-suits, fins, helmets and life jackets dropped into the water, sometimes tethered, to float between the pilings of the construction trestles and bridge abutments, presumably to take hold of a person clinging for life to the structures or a capsized vessel. Several “wet-runs” were taken during the day.
To the casual observer it appeared to be an exercise in futility. In every case the divers had little control over the direction that they coursed through the pilings and obstructions. The current was too strong for the divers to remain static or move laterally to any significant degree. Unless they “hit the target” the first time, the divers quickly found themselves downstream away from the rescue area. More significantly, the time that it would take to amass the boats, equipment and divers and launch to the site would very likely exceed the time for survivability in the very swift and cold waters of the Upper Sacramento River.
Pursuant to the regulations recently passed by the Redding City Council, boat passage beneath the Cypress Bridge construction site is prohibited when flows of the river exceed 7000 cfs. Currently passage is closed. At considerable expense, the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office has now learned the wiseness of this closure, as the likelihood of a successful rescue effort within the construction zone is highly questionable. With this new knowledge, it may be prudent to again review whether boating passage would be safe even at lower flows.