Divers, watercraft operators to stage underwater cleanup of Bonsai Rock in Lake Tahoe (video) | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Divers, watercraft operators to stage underwater cleanup of Bonsai Rock in Lake Tahoe (video)

A beach cleanup is coming to Tahoe in an all-new way: On Sunday, Aug. 5, a team of divers and watercraft operators will head to the lake's northeast shore and clear out what lies beneath the surface at Bonsai Rock.

"My partner is a free diver and free dives in Lake Tahoe. Bonsai Rock was an area he'd go a lot, and one of the biggest things for him over the years was seeing all the trash there. We've wanted to do this for a really long time. We came together — I'm a previous event planner for nonprofits — and he was telling me about all the trash he's seen and how he wanted to do something about it," said Meagan Cassou, who planned the event alongside Jesse Plourde.

Back in 2016, Plourde received a call from a friend who lost his wedding ring in the Bonsai Rock area. Plourde, a free diver, recovered the ring in five dives — during that time, he became aware of the trash littering the lakebed and never stopped thinking about it.

Plourde and Cassou began planning for a cleanup event last November, but the dream only recently came to fruition. Roughly two months ago, Cassou and Plourde went diving at Bonsai Rock and took a video of what they saw. They then presented their findings to Tahoe Dive Center, a Carson City-based dive shop that also offers courses for dive certification. Upon hearing the information, the company decided to pursue a partnership with the duo in May.

The event — known as Bonsai Rock Clean-Up Project — takes place on Sunday, Aug. 5. It's a full day of diving that offers certified divers the chance to collect trash from one of the most iconic landmarks at Lake Tahoe.

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"There have been other underwater cleanups in Lake Tahoe, but most are out of Sand Harbor, Nevada Beach — places where divers can walk in. A lot of those places have been cleaned up, and that's where a lot of diving is done. A lot of places around Tahoe that are popular among locals and tourists have been neglected for all trash cleanups in general, and the buildup is overwhelming there," Cassou said.

The team behind Bonsai Rock Clean-up Project completed a test run of the event approximately one week ago, and collected four trash bags' worth of garbage during the dive.

"We found trash from the '50s, pull-tab cans from the '70s… It's stuff that's been building up over decades," noted Cassou.

Volunteers at Bonsai Rock Clean-Up Project will continue to pick up garbage beneath the surface throughout the duration of the event.

"We'll leave Sand Harbor by 8 a.m. and head out from there. We'll probably jump in the water by 9 a.m. and divers can dive all day," said Cassou. "It's anywhere from 20-40 feet in this area, but most of the trash is about in the 25-foot depth. Depending on your gear and how your stamina is, you can stay under going up and down for an hour, break and come back in. Really you can dive all day; the water is warm enough. We're hoping to be out there until the afternoon."

While this is the first year of Bonsai Rock Clean-Up Project, Cassou expressed interest in making it an annual event.

"We want to clean up different neglected areas around the lake every year. What makes this dive so unique is that we access it by boat; you can't access it by a beach. There are a lot of areas around Tahoe that we as locals and tourists come to enjoy year-round that are only accessible through a boat cleanup like this.

"People are willing to help out with boats and are able to dive in these areas to clean up the bottom of the lake. We'd love to do D.L. Bliss next," Cassou said.

How to participate

According to Cassou, the project does not have enough boats involved to handle the amount of divers that are currently signed up to participate. While the amount of divers has been capped at this time, people interested in participating should contact Cassou and get added to the dive waiting list.

The other option is to drive a boat, kayak or paddleboard. These vessels will collect trash from the divers and bring it to a larger boat, provided by Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

"We're really excited to do underwater cleanups like this amazing opportunity we're getting. We've been contacted by divers all over the lake and in the Tahoe area. It's bringing together all these people who are excited for cleaning up Lake Tahoe," Cassou said.

"The unique thing about Lake Tahoe that not everyone knows about underwater is that it's like a whole 'nother world. It's cool to bring the community together around diving — it's a really exciting thing for our community."

Learn more on the Facebook event page "Bonsai Rock Clean-Up Project." Email meagancassou@gmail.com or contact Tahoe Dive Center to get involved.