Water Recovery

About the Unit

The Sheriff's Water Recovery Team is part of the Water, Parks, and Trails Unit. The Unit is responsible for the underwater search and recovery operations that have been directed or requested by the Sheriff. The Recovery Unit covers the entire county and because it is a joint team with St Croix County, Wisconsin, the team covers St Croix County as well. Dive operations range from river recoveries to deep lake diving and thin ice incident. As a primary response service, the Recovery Unit is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Unit has many functions beyond recovery missions, and is also called to assist in times of natural or man-made disasters and/or provide additional support for various functions held throughout Washington County.

Gun Recovered from a Burglary in an Area Lake


The team is trained in and equipped following public safety diver standards and lifeguard systems recovery protocols, and is supplemented by modern technology including towed-sonar arrays, remote operated vehicles (ROV), underwater cameras and lighting. The team also has extensive training in operating more than a dozen boats and other equipment. allowing the team to respond to any situation on the water or under the ice.

In 2010 the team completed underwater explosives investigation training and met the FEMA type I , II , III, and IV. criteria.

The unit is also a trained as radiological emergency response workers to respond should a catastrophe occur at one of the states nuclear power plants.


Recovering a Vehicle from the St. Croix RiverA typical response involves assessing the scene, interviewing witnesses, utilizing sonar and ROV equipment to assess the underwater environment, and dispatching divers underwater.

Our divers typically dive individually with two backup divers immediately available, and are tethered to a surface support team member who directs the dive via underwater communications gear.

The divers follow a rotation that allows for the safety of our team members and service to our communities. In other situations, multiple boats may be used in a coordinated effort to cover an area that is unsuitable for sonar and divers.