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Water Quality

The SoundGuardian Powers Through Its First Marine Buoy Inspection

By December 2, 2016January 23rd, 2017No Comments


The SoundGuardian, King County’s new research vessel, made its first official marine run on August 1, 2016, and it is already providing benefits. Crews have been able to go farther faster and work in windy conditions that would have turned its predecessor around.

On a chilly December 1st afternoon, crews from the King County Environmental Lab carried out the first marine buoy inspection.King County’s marine buoys, or moorings, work around the clock collecting data that tells us what is  going on with our waters. Tracking water quality helps spot trends and guides management decisions.

Inspections make sure that the shackles and lines that help anchor marine buoys are in good condition.  They can corrode in marine environments and get damaged.  Problems with these lines can have unintended consequences, like the time in 2014 when a buoy ended up on a West Seattle beach.


Beached buoy, 2014


The previous research vessel, the Liberty, was a workhorse that provided great service for 40 years.  But the Liberty just didn’t have the power to manage the big marine buoys  designed to weather rough waters that whip up on Puget Sound.  To re-deploy that runaway buoy beached in West Seattle, King County had to hire a contractor.


Marine contractor re-deploying the errant buoy



The SoundGuardian provides a lot more lifting power than the Liberty.  Today, crews can lift the buoy completely into the boat and conduct inspections on the deck. Crews don’t have to stand on the swim platform and inspect the suspended buoy. King County can deploy and retrieve buoys without hiring a contractor.

The SoundGuardian is already helping Environmental Labs get to work locations more quickly, and to fit more work in the day. With the boat’s greater lifting power, Environmental Lab crews can safely perform “health checks” and maintenance on this critical equipment that monitors the health of our waterways.