Stopping sea lions.
Just another day in the life of Ryan Krauss, a 2011 graduate of Divers Institute of Technology (DIT) and active commercial diver. His most recent diving gig took him to Oregon.
Reconstructing Sea Lion Bars
“This hydroelectric dam is one of the oldest in the nation, if not the oldest,” Ryan says.
When the dam was built, they barred off the tunnels to keep out sea lions and other large objects. But the bars were too far apart, and sea lions have since come in to take their fill of the fish.
“The project started out with nine crew members coming over the side of the dam, rigging up old sea lion bars and removing them.”
Ryan was on a second team: they accessed the fish ladder spillways through small manholes, exchanging the old bars with new ones. Reinforced stainless steel.
“I was on the crew that helped weld and replace them, wet welding and fabricating some new brackets topside to help hold the new gates in,” Ryan says.
It’s not his first rodeo.
Ryan learned welding young, and he’s been a coded welder since before he entered DIT’s program. He credits this skill – among others – for his current employment in the inland diving sector.
The Old Weight Belt: Starting Dive Training
Growing up in the Seattle area, Ryan wasn’t even aware that commercial diving existed. It was only by chance he heard about the profession, leading him on a new journey.
“I was with my friend, who long since retired from commercial diving,” Ryan recalls. “We were out in his backyard one time when I saw a weight belt [used by divers for buoyancy compensation in the water]. I asked him what it was, and he started telling me stories from his days as a commercial diver.”
Though Ryan wanted to join the ranks of commercial divers, he wasn’t quite ready. After saving up for a few years, he bought the required diving equipment and applied to dive school. DIT was his first choice.
Choosing DIT was a no-brainer. Besides its strong training program, location was a major factor in Ryan’s decision.
“I wanted to stay local to keep my costs down, and going to DIT was in my hometown so it was perfect.”
Back in Offshore: Building on Construction & Diving Experience
Ryan did some roofing jobs for several months after graduating. After saving up, he headed to the Gulf of Mexico to see if he could break into the offshore industry.
“Unfortunately, work was slow, so I headed back inland to my local area. John Paul [DIT Executive Director] said someone was looking for a commercial diver back home, so I did that for two years. In the meantime I was sending out resumes and CV’s everywhere.”
And then it happened. Ryan landed a job at Ballard Marine Construction, a company that works inland-based projects.
“I’ve been working there for a few years and still meet new people; Ballard takes on projects all over the place. People work in Nigeria, Mexico, South America – all over. Jobs that require every type of skill; guys get shuffled around to meet the demand.”
They even have a hyperbaric division.
Mining companies use special boring machines to make underground tunnels, and the head of the machine is constantly pressurized. When it requires maintenance, technicians and divers – including Ryan – help out.
Ryan credits DIT’s Physics & Medicine training module for giving him the training he needed to work in hyperbaric environments. The program helped him learn the basics, from identifying gas levels to operating chamber controls.
Besides training under pressure, DIT prepped Ryan for inland responsibilities with its direct approach:
“The hands-on stuff with salvage and running hydraulic and pneumatic tools; setting those up – it all came back to me when I was on the field. Plus the blackout plate project doing everything by touch, that was extremely applicable.”
Nuclear Facility Project: Pipe Drops, Icy Water & Concrete
Taking one from memory lane, Ryan recalls one of his favorite dive projects he’s ever been a part of.
It took place at a nuclear power plant in the Midwest. In the dead of winter.
“Working out there at winter months, temps were regularly 14 – 15 degrees below zero.”
The project involved rerouting 36-inch wide water pipes for their water cooling system. They worked in an area approximately 300 yards across.
1. Pipe Welding Assembly
The first phase involved utilizing pipe-welders to work on the pipes. They conducted this operation assembly style, joining the pipe units together in a large tent with heaters.
2. Positioning & Dropping the Pipes
Once that was done, the pipes were rigged with floaters (air-filled balloons to keep objects from sinking), and they pushed the pipes into the icy water.
“We positioned the pipes to specific coordinates set on the GPS, using tugger barges. Then, we cut the floats off and sank them.”
3. Material Reinforcement & Working in Ice
The project continued for months, including the installation of cement around the pipelines, major material excavation, sandbagging, crane operations…you name it.
“We got concrete burns, we were working with it so much.”
Ryan received some minor burns – but the cold balanced it out.
“I dove with a hot water suit, but our hot water machine kept breaking because of the intense cold. So sometimes I worked in a dry suit; it limited my time to about an hour and a half in the water.”
Job Variety & New Challenges
Working in a nuclear facility in subzero temperatures. Now sea lions.
Ryan says it perfectly:
“I love inland. Every job is completely different.”
Written for DIT by Matt Smith, Creator of Water Welders
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