Combined NSS-CDS Property Management Plan

Property Management

The National Speleological Society Cave Diving Section (NSS-CDS) shall be the sole management authority for all properties in this plan.  A current NSS-CDS board member shall be designated to coordinate the administration for all managed property related activities.  Management and operation of each property is delegated to a specific Site Property Manager who is directly responsible to the NSS-CDS Board of Directors to ensure the requirements of this plan are adhered to at all times by divers accessing the site.  Each Site Property Manager shall submit a quarterly report on diving activities to the NSS-CDS through the NSS-CDS Property Management Director designee.  The current NSS-CDS Property Management Director and Site Property Managers are listed on the NSS-CDS website (https://nsscds.org).

NSS-CDS Managed Properties

There are three properties, Cow Springs, Mill Creek (Alachua) Sink and School Sink, owned and/or managed by the NSS-CDS under the provisions of this combined management plan.  These sites are for use solely by members of the NSS-CDS and serve various purposes including conservation of very fragile sites and training support of section members.  Each site is unique and requires different management principles to adequately deal with the diversity.  Accordingly, each site is listed along with site specific rules that supersede the general rules and regulations which follow and shall otherwise apply.

Cow Springs:

The Upstream entrance to Cow Springs has a major restriction requiring moderate body and equipment manipulation to pass through a roughly vertical to horizontal transition at about 40 feet of depth.  Current flow is typically quite high requiring the use of a pull rope permanently installed in the front section of the cave.  Visibility is normally very good with depths to the 90-110 foot range.  The upstream section is quite delicate and is considered an advanced cave dive.  Divers MUST ensure their buoyancy control is excellent prior to entering this system as it contains spectacular clay banks and delicate goethite formations throughout that are easily damaged as well as challenging high flow and additional restrictions beyond the entrance.  The following site specific rules apply to the upstream section of Cow Springs:

  1. Diving is per the "Diver" section of this document with the exception that it is open to divers certified at Cave Diver or equivalent certification and there is no requirement to show proof of 100 cave dives.
  2. DPV use is forbidden.
  3. Training is prohibited EXCEPT sidemount training ONLY is allowed.  Sidemount training may only be conducted by NSS-CDS Instructors for students meeting all of the requirements of the “Diver” section of this document.  All divers entering the system must already be proficient in buoyancy control and be able to exercise proper technique to avoid damaging the cave while sidemount diving.   Instructors and sidemount students are both charged with evaluating skill levels and the appropriateness of using this fragile site for training.

The Downstream section of Cow Springs is shallow, in the 30 foot range, and fairly wide open with roughly 450 feet of penetration possible with no significant difficult areas.  The following site specific rules apply to the downstream section of Cow Springs:

  1. Diving is per the “Diver” section of this document with the exceptions that it is open to all levels of Cavern and Cave Diving and there is no requirement to show proof of 100 cave dives after full cave.
  2. DPV use is forbidden.
  3. All levels of Cavern and Cave Diving training may be conducted only by NSS-CDS Instructors for students diving per the “Diver” section of this document, with the exception that the students Cavern/Cave certification level must be appropriate to the level of training being conducted.

 

School Sink (Wayne's World): CURRENTLY CLOSED TO ALL DIVING

School Sink typically has low visibility with depths ranging to 160 feet and flow varies significantly due to tidal influences.  Waterin the sink and the cave system is brackish with saltwater intruding into the system through a deep saltwater tunnel.  Typical passage is approximately 90 to 110 feet deep with thick reddish brown silt on the floor.  Visibility is usually 2 to 5 feet due to tannic conditions, but on occasion visibility may reach 20 to 30 feet.  At depths shallower than 90 feet, the system is characterized as a sponge work cave with porous walls that look like Swiss cheese.  Below 90 feet, the limestone becomes dense and the system is an anastomatic cave, consisting of arrays of intersecting curvilinear tubes that form closed loops.  Accordingly, School Sink is considered a very advanced cave dive.  The following site specific rules apply:

  1. This is a Guided diving site.
  2. Mentored Divers are permitted.
  3. Diving is per the “Diver” section of this document.
  4. DPV use is allowed per the “Diver” section of this document.

Mill Creek (Alachua) Sink:

Mill Creek Sink is managed for the NSS by its Cave Diving Section, the offset sink being the only known window to the underground Alachua System.  The surface stream system is dissected by more than 10 swallow holes which divert water underground, draining a basin of over 70 square miles.  Sink visibility can vary dramatically from the cave visibility as tannins tend to wash into the sink during rainy periods, reducing visibility considerably.  Extremely delicate flow formations pervade the system.  Fine scalloped sheets of limestone are easily damaged and divers must be highly proficient not only in buoyancy control, but also positional awareness to ensure NO contact with any of these spectacular formations.   Mill Creek Sink is an advanced cave dive both upstream and downstream, with significant siphon flow in the downstream section with depths in both directions exceeding 200 feet and shallow sections within the cave that provide potential decompression ceilings.  Due to the nature and extreme complexity of the underwater cave system, access is permitted to only the highest qualified cave divers and absolutely no training is allowed.  The following site specific rules apply:

  1. This is a Guided diving site.
  2. Research and Science Divers are permitted.
  3. Divers shall meet all requirements per the “Diver” section of this document.
  4. DPV use is allowed in the downstream section ONLY per the “Diver” section of this document.

General Diver Requirements

Access to NSS-CDS owned or managed sites is strictly limited to current NSS-CDS members.  These sites are fragile and quite diverse; consequently divers must always use the very best technique, realizing that they have a personal responsibility to the preservation of the cave and to the community of fellow cave divers.  Each individual must selflessly evaluate their personal skills prior to diving all sites to ensure these systems remain as beautiful and awe inspiring to future generation as they are today.

Except as otherwise specified in the site specific rules, All divers shall meet all of the following general requirements and qualifications:

  1. Shall be trained and certified at Cave Diver or equivalent certification.
  2. Must show proof of completion of 100 cave dives after the completion of Cave Diver training.
  3. Gases breathed shall be appropriate for the depth of the site and the Diver shall be properly certified to use those gases.
  4. When Diver Propulsion Vehicles (DPV's) are permitted per site specific rules, the diver must possess a DPV specialty card or show proof of prior experience and have logged at least 5 swim dives at that site before a DPV may be used in that system.
  5. Shall possess DAN Standard Plan diving accident insurance or equivalent.

Except as otherwise specified in the site specific rules, all divers shall follow all of the following rules and regulations:

  1. Diving is at your own risk.
  2. Shall not dive for training purposes.
  3. No fees, including travel and incidental expenses may be charged for any reason at any NSS-CDS owned or managed site.
  4. A completed waiver is required for each diving day for each site dived even if a waiver was completed the day before. The waiver shall be given to the Site Property Manager or designee prior to commencing the dive.
  5. At guided sites, complete a Cave Observation Form and give the form to the Property Manager or designee within one (1) week of the dive.
  6. Keep all gates locked while diving and ensure they are locked upon leaving to prevent unauthorized access.
  7. Parking is allowed in designated areas only.
  8. No camping is allowed at any property without prior NSS-CDS BoD approval.
  9. Immediately Report any vandalism to the Site Property Manager, NSS-CDS Director responsible for the properties, or NSS-CDS Board of Directors.
  10. Immediately report any trespassers to the local Sheriff’s Department and the Site Property Manager.
  11. No individual or individuals, private or commercial, profit or not-for profit may make or produce any survey, map, cartography, or photograph for publication without prior written permission of the NSS-CDS Board of Directors. Mapping for personal use and safety considerations is permitted.
  12. Violation of this Management Plan can lead to being barred from future site access and prosecution to the full extent allowed by law.  Appeals shall be made in writing to the Chairman of the NSS-CDS Board of Directors.

Mentored Diver Requirements

At Guided Diving Sites and as designated in the site specific rules, the NSS-CDS may at its discretion, grant unguided access as a Mentored Diver.  Mentored Divers must adhere to and meet all Diver requirements and qualifications and in addition must meet the following more stringent requirements:

  1. Divers must log a minimum of 6 dives with a Guide.  Exceptions to this may be granted at the discretion of the Site Property Manager and Guide Committee.
  2. Divers shall demonstrate familiarity with the sites cave system and surface protocols.
  3. Mentored Divers shall be approved by the Site Property Manager and Guide Committee which, at their discretion, may assign a current Guide to act as Dive Coordinator for continued mentorship or revoke Mentored Diver privileges for any reason.
  4. Mentored Divers shall appropriately submit completed NSS-CDS waivers each day, prior to commencing any dives.
  5. Mentored Divers are permitted to dive only with other qualified Mentored Divers and/or a current site Guide.

Research and Science Diver Requirements

At Guided Diving Sites and as designated in the site specific rules, the NSS-CDS may at its discretion, grant unencumbered access as volunteer Research and Scientific Divers.  Research and Science Divers must adhere to and meet all Diver requirements and qualifications and in addition must meet the following more stringent requirements:

  1. Shall have been or presently serve as a Guide for the site.
  2. Shall apply and receive approval for the Project through the NSS-CDS Board of Directors.
  3. Unless on the current NSS-CDS Guides list for that site, Research and Science Divers shall not lead Guided Dives, but may elect to form dive teams of other Research/Scientific Divers as their assistants.  Research and Science Teams are not subject to dive team limits except as otherwise provided.
  4. For administrative purposes, the Site Property Manager may appoint a Research and Science Diver or a separate Guide to act as Project Liaison to the NSS-CDS.
  5. A completed NSS-CDS waiver shall be given to the Site Property Manager or designated Project Liason prior to commencing the dive.
  6. Fill out a post dive report indicating appropriate Research and Scientific observations.

Guide Diver Requirements

Per site specific rules, the NSS-CDS may at its discretion, designate a site as a Guided Diving site.   Each site shall have a Guides Committee, chaired by the Site Property Manager, and shall assist in managing the site.  Guides shall be appointed with the concurrence of the Site Property Manager and the Guides Committee.  The current Guides are listed on the NSS-CDS website (https://nsscds.org) and are considered NSS-CDS volunteers.  Guides shall adhere to and meet all Diver requirements and qualifications and in addition must meet the following more stringent requirements:

  1. Maintain current CPR training.
  2. Maintain DAN Master Plan level or equivalent diving insurance.
  3. Shall have completed a minimum of 10 dives within the system with two different and current guides.

Dive teams are limited to one (1) Guide and two (2) Divers.  Guide responsibilities include:

  1. Review the credentials of all Divers to ensure they meet minimum requirements.
  2. Ensure all Divers are familiarized with the cave system and its unique features and hazards.
  3. Ensure all Divers complete and sign a NSS-CDS waiver form prior to diving and place all completed forms in the site lockbox.
  4. The guide has the final decision to allow a particular guided or unguided dive to take place or to call a dive at any time for any reason.
  5. Fill out a post dive report indicating appropriate Research and Scientific observations.

End of Combined NSS-CDS Property Management Plan