Experienced dive teams says June Lake has five times the amount of trash of any similar Sierra lake
Yuck. That’s kind of the sentiment coming from a professional lake diving group called Clean Up The Lake this fall which, after completing a 72-mile SCUBA cleanup of Lake Tahoe in 2021-2022, just completed a big dive in June Lake and in doing so found enough trash to state June Lake was the worst lake they had ever cleaned up
“It was the ‘hottest’ hot spot our dive teams have seen yet,” said CUTL Founder and Executive Director Colin West.
The amount of trash taken out of the lake was more than anyone expected, West said. “Comparatively speaking to other lakes in the Sierra, over five times the amount of litter was discovered beneath the surface of June Lake. This litter included over 6,522 pieces that weighed over 3,404 pounds; shockingly, the majority of the trash included 3,071 bait jars and over 1,100 aluminum beer and soda cans.
“The saddest part was that thousands of pieces of litter had to be left behind under the surface, marked as hot spots as the dive teams prepare to return for removal with more time in the near future,” the dive team said in a recent news release.
Pilot research from 2021 indicated the need for a full cleanup in June, prompting the dive, West said.
The dives won’t end with June Lake, they said.
The team said it “finished months of work establishing strategic partnerships in the Mammoth Lakes region with government, nonprofits, businesses and Mammoth Lake Tourism, all leading to the organization solidifying a successful expansion into the Eastern Sierra.”
This sets it up to do more dives. Including in Mammoths Lakes Basin, they said.
“The CUTL dive team climbed over 9,000 feet and began conducting pilot research dives in four of the lakes in the Mammoth Lakes Basin including Lake George, Twin Lakes, Lake Mary and Lake Mamie,” West said. “Pilot research in Lake George showed signs of typical, submerged litter while also being flagged for unusually concentrated amounts of fishing line, hooks, bobbers, lures, and more leading to wildlife entanglement. Multiple live trout were freed from the fishing line during the pilot dives. Each of these lakes showed its own unique signs of environmental issues that all warrant remediation and future protection,” he said.
Mammoth officials are on board.
“When I sat down with Colin to discuss what he was doing, the stewardship program immediately resonated with me and our Mammoth Lakes Tourism efforts to mitigate visitor impacts, but more importantly to educate our guests on ways to show more respect for our environment,” said Mammoth Lakes Tourism Executive Director, John Urdi. “The Clean Up The Lake program will not only have immediate environmental impacts on our pristine mountain lakes, but it will also show visitors, and locals alike, how impacted they are just below the surface by trash that is out of sight and therefore, out of mind.”
After cleaning four lakes in the last two years throughout the Sierra, removing over 53,000 pounds and 46,000 pieces of litter, and finding over 770 heavy items like boats, engine blocks and illegal moorings that are GPS tagged for future removal, Clean Up The Lake has come to a very unsettling conclusion, the team said in the news release; “a widespread litter problem that has been ignored for decades in freshwater lakes all across the Sierra, and very likely, the world.”
Through the continued removal of litter and the initial surveying for aquatic invasive species and algal blooms, the team said it hopes to engage the Eastern Sierra communities to help improve water quality, protect animal species both below and above the surface, and spread awareness to prevent this level of pollution from continuing.
In fact, that engagement is already underway.
“The community of June Lake fully supported the cleanup with June Lake Marina donating boats, Big Rock Resort donating the space to stage the daily operations, and Golden Pine RV Park and June Lake Villager Motel donating accommodations,” West said.
“Clean Up The Lake will always continue to expand its research programs, partnerships, and environmental efforts to other waterways around the world,” West said, and the Eastern Sierra is a top priority.
“I couldn’t be any prouder and more excited to be expanding into Mammoth Lakes Basin this fall, with more to come in 2023,” said West.
He said Clean Up The Lake “was fortunate to have the support of not only the community, but also the government, nonprofits, businesses and more. Mammoth Lakes Tourism has committed to matching up to $25,000 in donations to clean up the local lakes.”
He noted that the government of Mono County has committed a grant for $10,314, and Mammoth Lakes Recreation is also donating, financially.