Tahoe underwater cleanup crosses finish line

Published: May. 10, 2022 at 6:02 PM PDT
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STATELINE, Nev. (KOLO) - Cold wind blowing and snow flying. It was not the sort of day that brings crowds to Tahoe, at least not its beaches. But a number of people, bundled up, stamping their feet were gathered at Edgewood Tahoe Tuesday morning.

They were here to cheer a group of divers emerging from the water. We should note here it was actually warmer in the water than on shore. At 41 degrees the divers were, for once, leaving an environment warmer--by about eleven degrees at the moment--than their shivering fans were experiencing on shore. But that both groups were enthusiastically here, says something about the moment.

The divers had just finished an underwater circumnavigation of the lake while literally pulling tons of trash and litter from the bottom.

It was time to celebrate.

“We’ve pulled out over 25 thousand 200 pounds of litter across 81 diving days,” Colin West announced to the crowd.

For West it was a special moment, the achievement of a goal he had set more than two years ago. A Tahoe-based filmmaker and avid diver he had seen in his travels other waters spoiled by trash and discovered the same problem here at home.

“Get down there with your scuba gear about a foot or two off the surface and all of a sudden you start to see beer cans from the 80′s or 70′s that are covered with sediment and algae,” he told us in 2019.

Delayed by the pandemic, the idea caught on. Others rallied to the cause, donating time, resources and money.

The aim was not only to pick up trash, but build a database. What’s ending up in the lake and where? West says that’s going to be a continuing assignment.

“We’re going to do twenty different hot spots and monitor those across the Nevada side as well.”

And--he says--though the focus will always return to Tahoe, other Sierra lakes, Donner, Fallen Leaf and even June Lake could get some attention. Tuesday’s finish line apparently was only the start.

“I wish we could say the job is done, but we’re only getting started. I know we’re going to be pulling out large amounts of litter probably every year for quite a few years until our organization can put in more preventative efforts to continue to protect Lake Tahoe.”

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