Clean Up The Lake removes 8,183 pounds of trash from Lake Tahoe and Donner Lake

A crowd of people are seen visiting Kings Beach on July 5, 2020.

Lake Tahoe and Donner Lake are both substantially cleaner below their surfaces, thanks to an aggressive clean-up effort aided by a coordinated dive clean up effort from a non profit.

Clean Up the Lake, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, removed 8,183 pounds of trash from both lakes this summer.

Dive teams completed a circumnavigated scuba clean-up of Donner Lake, covering all of the eight-mile shoreline at depths of 0 to 25 feet, removing all the smaller trash they could find. That resulted in 5,151.5 pounds of trash removed.

Some of the trash collected during the Clean Up the Lakes effort this summer.

The teams removed 3,032 pounds of trash from the depths of Lake Tahoe.

Almost 95 percent of the cleaning effort was done since June, with the remainder over the last year. 

The group’s planned 72-mile clean-up was postponed until next summer.

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A crowd of people are seen visiting Kings Beach on July 5, 2020.

At Donner Lake, after removing the 5,151.5 pounds of small trash, the volunteers used GPS to mark more for removal later.

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

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

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

Some of the trash collected during the Clean Up the Lakes effort this summer.

Clean Up The Lake founder and executive director Colin West is also working with microplastics research teams from UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center and the Desert Research Institute in Reno to better understand the issue so that in the future the organization can also address the plastic and litter issue at its roots.

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West and his team used an archeological surveying software called Wildnote. This allows divers to GPS-pinpoint areas 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. In those cases, the organization later notifies 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 crab and fine-tune our strategies, while also removing a substantial amount of trash from both Lake Tahoe and Donner Lake,” West said in a news release.

Clean Up the Lake, UC Davis TERC and DRI are sorting and categorizing the 2,248 pounds of trash. They will then use the data to develop educational programs, better inform policy makers and spread public awareness on items that need to be reduced so they do not make back into the lake.

Donner Lake is seen looking east during sunset on the evening of June 30, 2015.

As a non-profit organization, Clean Up the Lake depends on donations; they received some from Mountain Hardware & Sports and Truckee Tahoe Lumber Company.

Clean Up The Lake also has an Adopt a Mile program where an individual or business donors can sponsor one full mile of Lake Tahoe’s clean-up efforts and explore other partnership and donation opportunities.

For more information, visit cleanupthelake.org.

Dive crews helped clean up Lake Tahoe and Donner Lake this summer.

Jim Krajewski covers high school and youth sports for the Reno Gazette Journal. Follow him on Twitter @RGJPreps. Support his work by subscribing to RGJ.com right here