Nonprofit group thousands of pounds of trash from Tahoe, Donner

Thousands of pounds of trash has been removed from Lake Tahoe and Donner Lake.

The nonprofit group, Clean Up the Lake, started an underwater cleanup of both lakes at the beginning of July and collected 8,183 pounds of garbage from both lakes, with the majority coming from Donner Lake.

The scuba cleanup of Donner covered the 8-mile shoreline down to 25 feet underwater. The divers removed all the smaller trash they could find that resulted in 5,151 pounds being taken out of the lake.

Out of Tahoe’s total of 3,032 pounds, 371 of it was collected before June.

Clean Up The Lake has worked with staff and volunteers this summer to further develop their strategic approach of scuba clean ups that involve teams of divers, free divers, snorkelers, surface support on kayaks, zodiacs, jet skis and boats.

A portion of this trash came from a 6-mile clean up of Nevada’s Lake Tahoe sub-surface shoreline yielding 2,238 pounds of trash from Nevada Beach, Zephyr Cove, Secret Beach and areas near Incline Village.

This cleanup was funded by the License Plate Grant from Nevada Division of State Lands, a sub-grant by Nevada Department of Environmental Protection and the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

Clean Up The Lake’s founder and executive director, Colin West, is leading these dives to remove trash and is currently working with microplastic research teams from UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center and Desert Research Institute to better understand the issue at hand so that in the future the organization can also address the plastic and litter issue.

During this summer’s clean ups, West and his team used an archeological surveying software called the Wildnote App. This allows divers to GPS pinpoint areas of interest such as trash hot spots, areas with heavier items that need a winch or crane to be removed, and also historical items that are left behind where the organization ensures to later notify proper authorities with the GPS data and photographs.

“In comparison to next year’s 72-mile scuba clean up of Lake Tahoe, these smaller scale clean ups gave us the opportunity to practice our craft and fine tune our strategies, while also removing a substantial amount of trash from both Lake Tahoe and Donner Lake,” said West in a press release. “Our organization now feels even more ready for what awaits us on the 72-mile scuba clean up next year”.

Clean Up the Lake, UC Davis TERC and DRI will be sorting and categorizing the 2,248 pounds of trash using the data to develop educational programs, to better inform policy makers, spread public awareness and more.

Clean Up the Lake is a nonprofit that depends on donations. The group has an adopt-a-mile program where individuals or businesses can sponsor one full mile of Lake Tahoe’s clean up efforts.

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