As part of a collective effort to clean and preserve the Lake Tahoe region, volunteers from Clean Up the Lake are diving deep to remove hundreds of pounds of trash from the floors of one of the Sierra’s most immaculate lakes. Fueled by the desire to combat plastic and all forms of pollution, the non-profit will focus on scuba and strategic shore-based cleanups around Lake Tahoe and the Cayes in Belize.
The project was initiated in June 2020 by two Lake Tahoe residents who felt an unwavering desire and responsibility to address the long-term trash problem. Attracting over 3 million annual visitors, local residents are putting forth continuous efforts in order to clean up what is left behind. Tahoe Dive Center owner Matt Meunier and Clean Up the Lake founder Colin West decided to take matters into their own hands and dedicate several months scuba diving around the lake picking up trash, which would result in the biggest cleanup in Tahoe’s history.
While the organization had originally planned on cleaning the 72 miles of Lake Tahoe, the COVID-19 outbreak forced them to postpone the project until 2021. Until then, they will be focusing on removing trash from the floors of the region’s lakes with support from the local community. Starting with Donner Lake, volunteers successfully removed roughly 672 pounds of trash, including tires, solo cups, golf balls, beer cans, and hundreds of tennis balls. Tackling less than a quarter-mile in length, the team plans to address all 37 public piers. Meghan Burk, one of the many devoted volunteers, mentioned “there’s a lot of fibers down there. You just see these light floating clumps and that has to do with towels, clothing, things like that.”
The project on Donner Lake will result in not only significant trash removal, but it will also allow the team an opportunity to determine where the “hot spots” of litter are. Upon finding larger items, the divers pin the exact locations in order to return at a later point. Among such discoveries is a 25-foot steel boat that looks as though it was abandoned decades ago. Between archaeological findings and insurmountable amounts of garbage, the hope is to attract attention from the local community in order to receive the support needed to continue the valiant efforts of the organization.