Divers pull 25,000 pounds of trash and some oddities from Lake Tahoe
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – If you dropped your Blackberry while on Lake Tahoe back in 1999, it quite possibly was recovered by an organization taking significant steps to clear some of America’s lakes of trash. Dive teams with Clean Up The Lake embarked on an effort last May to recover submerged litter around all 72 miles of the lake’s shoreline. They collected 24,797 pieces of trash, bringing the total weight removed to 25,281 pounds.
Despite the winter weather, COVID-19 and wildfire-related challenges, divers were in the water for 12 months to complete the effort. Clean Up The Lake recovered submerged litter around all 72-miles of Lake Tahoe’s shoreline. In total, they collected 24,797 pieces of litter, bringing the total weight removed to 25,281 pounds.
Aside from all the accomplishments, the group has just scratched the surface. This year, they want to expand their mission by performing clean-ups across four lakes. It will include intensive monitoring projects on Lake Tahoe and Donner Lake, a circumnavigated clean-up of Fallen Leaf Lake located within the Tahoe basin, and an expansion to the Mammoth Lakes region for the clean-up of June Lake.
They found no trace of a mythical sea monster, no sign of mobsters in concrete shoes or long-lost treasure chests. But scuba divers who spent a year cleaning up Lake Tahoe’s entire 72-mile (115-kilometer) shoreline have come away with what they hope will prove much more valuable: tons and tons of trash.
In addition to removing 25,000 pounds (11,339 kilograms) of underwater litter since last May, divers and volunteers have been meticulously sorting and logging the types and GPS locations of the waste. The recovered debris mostly has consisted of things like bottles, tires, fishing gear and sunglasses. They’ve also turned up a few “No Littering” signs, engine blocks, lamp posts, a diamond ring and “those funny, fake plastic owls that sit on boats to scare off birds,” West said.
“It’s shocking to see how much trash has accumulated under what appears to be such a pristine lake,” said Matt Levitt, founder and CEO of Tahoe Blue Vodka, which has contributed $100,000 to the cleanup. His businesses is among many — including hotels, casinos and ski resorts — dependent on the 15 million-plus people who visit annually to soak up the view Mark Twain described in “Roughing It” in 1872 as the “fairest picture the whole earth affords.” “Our hope is that it will inspire greater environmental stewardship and remind those who love Lake Tahoe that it’s up to all of us to take care of it,” Tahoe Fund CEO Amy Berry said.
Clean Up The Lake
Our NPO’s flagship project is the first ever human powered circumnavigation of Lake Tahoe using SCUBA, and projected to be the largest trash-clean up in Lake Tahoe’s history. In 2022 we are expanding to Fallen Leaf Lake and June Lake. We are also going to be checking out hotspots on Lake Tahoe as well as re-diving the 8 miles of Donner lake that we circumnavigated in 2020.
Image courtesy Clean Up The Lake