A Dangerous Legacy

This ancient lake holds the history of the people who have lived on its shores for thousands of years. It also holds a small piece of U-S military history. Beginning in 1944, Navy pilots used the lake for aerial gunnery practice strafing floating targets, making low-level torpedo runs over the lake honing skills they would need for the war in the Pacific. At war's end they left a lake bottom littered with ordnance, not only the rockets and shells shot in target practice, but unused ammunition still in crates were simply dumped into the lake. It's been sitting there on the lake bottom ever since. Navy divers working from these barges just a short distance off shore at Sutcliffe, have been bringing it up. After 60 years on the bottom the ordnance looks harmless. Rocket bodies rusted away, live, unused 20 millimeter shells still in their boxes. It's unlikely this stuff has posed any environmental hazard in the lake, but removing it is
Anna Keyzers, Evironmental Specialist, "If the public gets a hold of any of the ordnance, as has happened elsewhere, it can be very dangerous."
The project has also provided a training opportunity for the Navy divers, working 200 feet deep or more in cold dark waters. A challenging task at this altitude, but there's a less tangible payoff. This lake is the center of the Paiute Tribe's world, it's livelihood. It has fed and sustained these people for thousands of years. Clearing it of the debris of 20th century warfare is important. And with the lake finally cleared, the tribe is planning a celebration this July.


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