Sisolak praises Clean Up The Lake for trash collection efforts at Tahoe

Laney Griffo
Special to the Sierra Sun

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — As Clean Up The Lake nears completion of their 72-mile project, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak joined the crew on Monday to thank them for their progress thus far.

On Monday, April 11, Sisolak joined officials from the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, along with staff and volunteers from Clean Up The Lake and project sponsors Tahoe Fund and Tahoe Blue Vodka, at Nevada’s Sand Harbor State Park to celebrate the historic initiative to remove underwater trash and debris from nearshore areas across the entire Nevada side of Lake Tahoe.

Colin West exits the water on Monday on his way to meet with Gov. Steve Sisolak.
Mike Peron/Tahoe Daily Tribune

Clean Up The Lake founder Colin West had just exited the water from a dive when the event began. Despite the spring snow, West is committed to his clean up efforts.

He handed the microphone to Allen Biaggi, Tahoe Fund’s Board Chair. Tahoe Fund was one of the project’s first funders and has been supporting the project’s efforts along the way. He explained Tahoe Fund’s mission and then told the story of how West reached out to them and how everything came about.

“They’ve gone almost all the way around the lake,” Biaggi said. This project has inspired and shown people the impacts of litter and trash at Lake Tahoe. We are very pleased to be part of this project.”

Matt Levitt of Tahoe Blue Vodka spoke about his involvement and said he was skeptical when he first heard the size and scope of the project.

“But their success has been undeniable,” he said. “Tens of thousands pounds of trash have been hauled out of the lake. It’s encouraging to see what one group of people can do when they set their minds to it.”

West spoke next, telling the story of how he got interested when he saw a group of divers hauling up 600 pounds of trash one day at Tahoe. He said he literally and figuratively dove right in.

Efforts to clear out underwater litter from Lake Tahoe’s entire 72-mile nearshore in Nevada and California began in 2021, after Clean Up The Lake completed a pilot program the year before that facilitated the removal of over 2,000 pounds of trash from just six miles of the lake. The entire 28-mile Nevada side of the lake is now complete, and in Nevada alone, Clean Up The Lake’s scuba dive team has removed nearly 13,000 pounds of litter.

With less than 8-miles left on the California side, Clean Up The Lake is expecting to complete the project by the end of April. So far, they’ve collected 6 ½ tons of trash and marked several heavy lift items that will need to be collected later.

“We found 240 heavy lift items, bigger pieces, plastic garbage cans full of cement, old engine blocks, that we can remove later with a bit more equipment” West said. “I just saw an anchor out there this morning that I’m coming back for,” following an announcement that the Tahoe Fund is going to support a lake monitoring program to revisit hot spots.

Gov. Steve Sisolak personally thanked the Clean up the Lake volunteers.
Mike Peron/Tahoe Daily Tribune

The governor was the last to speak at the event.

“It’s a real honor to be here today. I can’t say enough about the work you’re doing. This is really inspirational. When I look at the statistics, 6 1/2 tons, that is so much garbage, it’s truly amazing,” Sisolak said.

The governor continued, “Some people either intentionally or unintentionally disrespect the environment at this beautiful site which is discouraging, but the positive is we have volunteer organizations like yourself, and it’s not the safest thing in the world to dive underwater and pick up trash. The message you’re sending to the generations behind us, to get the word out, that this stuff was in the lake, (as he looked at a pile of trash), its beyond comprehension to me that this stuff would end up at the bottom of the most pristine, beautiful lake in the world.”

During the governor’s first term in office, he signed Assembly Bill 93, which allowed nonprofits to apply for Lake Tahoe License Plate funds. Prior to the bill, only public agencies could apply for those funds. Clean Up The Lake was the first nonprofit to be awarded a grant through the bill.

West said it was surreal to be thanked by the governor.
Mike Peron/Tahoe Daily Tribune

Following the event, West told the Tribune that this was his opportunity to show the governor how his money has been spent.

“It was surreal. I’m just honored to be able to help clean the environment,” West said.

The governor urged people to continue supporting Clean Up The Lake and he shook hands and personally thanked all of the organization’s major volunteers who attended the event.

“It’s making a big difference one can and one tire at a time,” Sisolak said. “It’s making the lake better and more pristine for all of us. On behalf of Nevada, we thank you.”

Following his speech, Sisolak got his hands dirty by helping the volunteers sort trash, a vital part of Clean Up The Lake’s efforts.

Governor Sisolak helped the volunteers sort trash.

West told the Tribune he one day hopes to get the governor out in the water with him.

To learn more about the project, visit

Laney Griffo is a staff writer at the Tahoe Daily Tribune, a sister publication of the Sierra Sun

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