2017 Year in Review

Greetings from NMDE HQ.  Sorry it took so long for us to get this report online.  It has been a great year for NMDE.  We are excited to report that we are still moving forward and making a positive impact in and around Lake Tahoe.  We want to start by thanking NMDE Members Peter, Trevor, Marc,  Guest divers Kevin, Karim, International Divemaster and Instructor Ben Brodie, Also, a huge thanks to journalist, Mike Menduno  also for his introduction to Dr. Neal W. Pollock, PhD and to Dr. Pollock for his time sharing his knowledge and in providing input on how our project can be a meaningful contributor to his research; research we must support regardless the cost or increased logistical aspects we must surmount.   


In 2017, we applied for four separate grants.  Two with the State of Nevada’s Historic Preservation Fund for work on the SS Tahoe and to locate the Nevada and Meteor.  The combined work for each project was approximately $60,000 and we asked for $5,000 in two separate grants.  These grants were for expenses related to side scan sonar, remote operated vehicles and photogrammetry to be conducted on the SS Tahoe.   

Grant three was to the Strong Foundation for continuing our work on our water clarity monitoring stations.  We were looking to fund the three additional digital sensors and station upgrades to establish our 6 water clarity monitoring stations around the lake.  This project was first funded in 2015 by the Tahoe Truckee Community foundation with a grant of $3,000 where we established our first three digital stations.  The total project cost was $8,500 and we asked of the Strong Foundation an amount of $1,597.   

The fourth grant submission was to the Lahontan Community Foundation to establish a community outreach program whereby we could afford to take our show on the road and share it with our local communities.  The estimated total project cost for this was $1,992 of which we asked of the Foundation $992.   

With a smile we report that every one of these grant proposals was declined.  It is a very frustrating realization that when the research is done, “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” – read: underwater -, raising funding from State and local funding sources is typically very difficult as evidenced by our lacking success reported here.   

That does not mean however that our private donor sponsorship requests went unanswered; we raised about $12,000 here.  Also, our President, Martin McClellan was awarded an Honorarium for his work in Fiji with Global Underwater Explorers’ Project Baseline and that funding of $1,400 went directly to the Water Clarity Monitoring Stations; funding the $1,597 asked of and declined by the Strong Foundation.   

As we face 2018, we will continue our grant funding requests but not with the vigor as 2017.  Each grant application takes about 15-20 hours of time to compile.  We are not sure we want to allocate 60-80 hours of volunteer time in an economy where our efforts and time may be unproductive; and where the interest from entities like the State of Nevada, League to Save Lake Tahoe and other local environmental organizations see relatively no value in the work we are doing.  This places the funding requirement upon private donors and fundraising projects that we may pursure.   


Lake Tahoe 

This was the worst year in recollection that the lake exhibited such poor visibility and increased algae activity; the latter based upon the clarity below 100m/330′ that usually improves in late July.  This year it did not.  We inferred that this poor clarity situation was a direct result of the massive winter snowfall the Sierras experienced this year of over 18m/65′ but certainly exacerbated by the continuing human footprint and the absolutely ignorant water control demonstrated by this image of storm drainage that does nothing but provide a medium for algae growth that will eventually end up in the lake, further diminishing clarity:


So you can see in this image, your politicians continue to spend your money in the preservation of Lake Tahoe but are in fact failing you (when they could provide us support and garner better information allowing them to make better decisions).  Remember, we can report this and make these statements because we answer to no political entity; probably why we can’t get funding – hahaha.  We answer to you, the public at large, without bias and honestly backed up by photos and live reporting from deep, deep down!   

Water Clarity Stations 

Our accomplishments this year were still meaningful and productive.  First, we established all 6 of our Water Clarity Monitoring Stations in the lake.  We completed the digital sensor upgrades to the Glenbrook and Bliss State Park stations.  We added the South Lake Tahoe station and we recorded and completed the maintenance on our existing stations in Hurricane Bay, Tahoe City and Sand Harbor State Park.   


SS Tahoe 

At the beginning of 2017, our goal was to conduct an intense photogrammetry project on the SS Tahoe.  Our plan was a week of intensive diving by 6 highly trained and specialized “rebreather” divers.  As we began the planning process and ramp-up for these dives, we were approached by a medical group out of Canada led by Dr. Neal Pollock (a leading scientist studying bubble formation resulting from diving) and because our organization is the ONLY organization conducting 100-150m/330-500′ decompression dives at altitude, he indicated that he wanted to be a part of our project and study our divers.  Good and Bad.  The Good is obvious but the Bad, increased our logistical aspects as well as our budget.  What we determined is that we needed 1) a bigger boat, 2) diver HQ to be moved to the Lake (meaning we need to find housing and equipment supply/storage areas and 3) the placement of a temporary underwater decompression habitat.  So… we postponed those dives until 2018.

 Another issue we encountered is diver risk and experience with altitude diving in a rebreather format.  We did not consider this initially but as time progressed and we got closer to dives, some hesitation was encountered and divers had to justifiably back out of the project realizing that they would not be a safe, competent and experienced member of the team.  We truly appreciated those decisions but regardless, the did cause a set-back to the overall success of the project being conducted this past year.   

However, we were able to conduct several meaningful and productive set-up dives in Glenbrook as well as two SS Tahoe Dives introducing GUE Diver, Kevin Dow during the first dive and GUE Instructor and Diver, Karim Hamza during the second (please see our blog posts of July 29 and August 19.  During the debrief from both of these dives, our decision to postpone until 2018 was confirmed as Karim, the head of our photogrammetry work determined that there would need to be not 7 dives to do the site justice but more like 20-25; you guessed it…. just tripling our budget so the need for a successful grant program just became heightened.  What we did determine is that our infrastructure allowing us to safely conduct sub 100m330′ altitude dives to the SS Tahoe without a major entourage is solidly and efficiently in place.

The reality now is that our SS Tahoe Photogrammetry Project will now be more likely conducted in 2019 


In May, NMDE President and diver, Martin McClellan was asked by Global Underwater Explorers Project Baseline Director, Dr. Todd Kincaid, to participate in the shallow water coral reef research work that was organized between the political bodies of Fiji and Tech Dive New Zealand.  Martin did an excellent job of documenting this via the NMDE Blog; for complete info, visit the FIJI blogs – this link is post #1 (15 May 2017) of 5, ending with the fifth blog post dated 7 June, 2017.    

To summarize our year, NMDE Member Peter Fulks and his partner in Partial Pressure Productions, Trevor Fulks (his brother) produced a great this telling video of our year and our future.


The Hidden Story: Project Baseline Tahoe 2017 from Partial Pressure Productions.

We look forward to another great year in 2018 as we continue our work with our Water Clarity Monitoring Stations, more dives on the SS Tahoe preparing for a 2019 Expeditions, future work with the science department at the University of Nevada, Reno, dives in Crater Lake with the support of the NPS and finally, our efforts to do better community outreach in our plan to formulate an alliance with Tahoe Clarity to conduct lake clean-up dives to promote awareness of the damage the human element is creating in Tahoe.   

We wish you all a great year.  Stay tuned and please, get involved as we are always looking for help and support.