Mohawk Sunk

Michael Campbell’s grandfather changed his life and by extension ours. Michael is currently the Senior Environmental Specialist for the Lee County Department of Natural Resources. It sounds like a lofty title and it is. “A Senior Environmental Specialist develops, manages and monitors marine habitat projects including: living shorelines, artificial reefs, sea grasses, oysters, scallops, wetlands, water quality, habitat quality, and population analysis. My duties include, Project Management, Fisheries Management, Grants Management, GIS Operations, Dive Operations Management, Habitat Restoration, Project Mitigation Management, Artificial Habitats Manager, Permit Acquisition, Public Outreach, Report Preparation, Habitat Assessment and Channel Maintenance,” explained Michael. As an undergraduate at Louisiana State University Michael was a business major but that didn’t last long. “I spent my youth fishing on the Sabine River on the border of Louisiana and Texas with my grandfather who was a fisherman. He had a pirogue (most people call it a Jon boat) with a small tiller on the back. We caught many species, bass, sac-a-lait, catfish, and speckled trout depending on where we were.” Michael saw at an early age the man-made damage that occurred and it made a lasting impression on him. “In Terrebonne Bay every year I noticed the bayous getting a little wider and the waves getting a little bigger. I don’t know the amount lost in the past 20 years but I can tell you it has changed. Noticing these changes made me realize the tremendous effect we were having on our environment, everyone hears about the disappearing rainforest in Central America, but mine was disappearing right before my eyes.” And then things changed. “I was sitting inside working on my economics homework, dreaming of being outside. I decided that I did not want to spend my life working inside behind a desk. My home was damaged from Hurricane Gustav and I had become disillusioned with the scope of the impact my current employment allowed me to have. I stumbled upon a job announcement in Florida, applied, took a trip down here and really liked it. It was easier to move considering I didn’t really have a home at the time. Before this time I had never imagined moving to Florida but who doesn’t love the beach.” Michael stated to work for the Lee County Department of Natural Resources in October, 2009. the website that informs about all things pertaining to reefs in Lee County was created by Michael’s predecessor Chris Koepfer who passed away in April, 2009. In the summer of 2012 the USS Mohawk a 165-foot-long Coast Guard cutter commissioned on January 19 1935 was sunk 28 nautical miles off the coast of Captiva and Sanibel Islands at a depth of 90 feet making it a one-of-a-kind dive destination. How does somebody get their hands on a Coast Guard ship? “The Mohawk was serving as a museum in Key West,” explained Michael. “It was owned and operated by a nonprofit. The museum lacked the necessary funds to maintain the vessel as a museum. Two options existed for the future of the Mohawk, sending her to the scrap yard or having her final duty serving as a veteran’s memorial reef. It was ultimately decided that the best and most honorable use of the vessel was as a reef.” Creating dive destinations is obviously important but preserving Lee County’s offshore habitat is Michael’s passion. “The waters off Lee County are beautiful and serve many purposes for our recreational enjoyment and quality of life. It is the symbol of their culture and the reason we live here. Everything in our area revolves around the health of our marine environment, I hope to preserve that beauty for future generations. Artificial reefs provide the essential habitat for various marine organisms that define a diverse and productive system. Reefs provide hard substrate for corals and tunicates to attach and food sources and cover for many species of finfish.” Michael is guardedly optimistic about the future. “I believe that Lee County and our residents will continue to do the best we can to promote a healthy environment, I don’t know if it will be better but we will certainly do the best that we can along the way. There are several nonprofit reef organizations that exist throughout the state; most are not as active or visible as Lee Reefs.” There are currently 22 artificial reef sites in Lee County, with hundreds of individual reefs. More reefs are deployed every year. On November 23, 2013 Michael Campbell, Joe Weatherby, Dave Sirak and John Park accepted the Academy of Television Arts and Science Emmy Award for Technical Achievement for the filming of the sinking of the USS Mohawk. Is the Emmy prominently displayed in Michael’s house? “It is not, I wish it was. This is for two reasons. First, I do not have a sturdy place to display it; no china cabinet and we don’t have fireplaces in South Florida. Second, my house is a playground for two small and mischievous children; having a heavy object with sharp points above their heads is against my wife’s guidelines for me. Haha.”   EBooks on Amazon by J.M. Garlock “The Centurion Chronicles” Books One, Two and Three “Knight Hunter: Vampires” Book One Website: J.M. Garlock on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter