Scatter ashes anywhere you like, but not in the lake
California residents can now scatter the remains of loved ones in most places in California, but in Lake Tahoe it better be on the Nevada side.
A new California statute that went into effect New Year’s Day allows cremated remains to be scattered or buried on land, or dumped at sea more than 500 yards from shore. The law brings California back in line with the rest of country and reverses the state’s 13-year-old prohibition on private scattering over land.
The law still prohibits the scattering of ashes from piers and bridges and in lakes and streams – making, at least, the California side of Lake Tahoe off limits.
In Nevada, residents are allowed to scatter ashes over any public waterway, which would include Lake Tahoe, according to the Nevada Attorney General’s Office. Nevada also allows scattering on private property after obtaining written consent from the property owners. California’s new law also requires written consent from property owners and a permit for leaving ashes on public lands.
Despite constant concerns over lake clarity, it seems the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency has found no threat to the lake from cremated remains. The agency has no rules or regulations that speak to the ritual, said Pam Drum, public information officer.
Lake Tahoe residents have long been defying California’s former law when it came to remembering their loved ones. Californians’ cremation rate is nearly twice the national average. Cremation is also much less costly than a funeral. The average cost of a funeral in California in 1997 was $4,600, according to the California Public Interest Research Group.
Contra Costa County State Assemblyman Tom Torlakson, author of the bill, said one of the law’s intentions is to give consumers additional choices and reduce overall funeral costs. The law allows people to personally scatter ashes, therefore reducing the need to use a cremations disposer or charter a boat or plane. Under the old law ashes could only be released three miles off shore.
The former law was enacted by the legislature in 1984 in response to an incident when an Amador County cremations disposer was found disposing of human remains on his property rather than following the requests of the families.
Officials with the U.S. National Forest Service said residents should obtain permission from the district office of the area they wish to remember their loved one in. Lake residents can now obtain legal permission to scatter remains in the Desolation Wilderness under the new law, but not in any of the Desolation’s lakes.
Even though the practice was illegal, officials said there were few if any prosecutions for scattering remains before 1999.
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