CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Finding a pistol at the bottom of the murky, mucky Kanawha River can be nearly impossible for police divers.
You battle swift currents, struggle to maneuver in your insulated wetsuit, gloves and full face mask, and feel your way along because you can only see inches away.
Members of the Charleston Police Department's dive team will soon have a new tool that could revolutionize underwater search efforts. City officials will open bids Tuesday morning for a remote operated vehicle (ROV), which will allow divers to stay dry while looking for sunken weapons, vehicles or, in the worst case, bodies.
"Usually, it's weapons or other things," Police Chief Brent Webster said. "Suspects or witnesses tell us 'it's over here.'" Then, up till now, divers go in and start to search.
Police divers have wanted an ROV for several years, but the high price tag put it out of reach of the department's regular budget. The city last month won a port security grant through the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to cover the cost.
"We're fortunate to get this grant," Webster said. "This allows us to do something we can't otherwise do."
Depending on the amount of the lowest bid, the city could spend about $50,000 of the grant for the JW Fishers SeaLion-2 system specified in the bid documents.