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Steamship Tahoe to be on National Register of Historical Places

Gregory Crofton

It looks like landlocked Nevada is about get a sunken ship listed on the National Register of Historical Places.

An application to submit the Steamship Tahoe, a 170-foot vessel scuttled a mile out from Lake Tahoe’s Glenbrook Bay, for the National Register was approved recently in Carson City.

The 11-member board of the Nevada State Historic Preservation Office unanimously approved the application. The application now must be approved by the National Park Service in Washington, D.C.

“I would anticipate listing by mid- to late February,” said Ron James, Nevada state historic preservation officer.

A listing in the register means federal funds could be made available to protect the Steamship Tahoe. It began delivering mail and supplies and transporting people around Lake Tahoe in the 1890s. The ship was sunk intentionally in 1940 to protect it from vandalism.

But the scuttling process went awry. The ship’s owner, the Bliss family, wanted it to come to rest 140 feet beneath the surface so it would remain visible through the clear water. But the vessel slid deeper into the lake, with its bow coming to rest at 350 feet, its stern at about 470 feet.

A 17-member scuba team from Reno called New Millennium Dive Expeditions made five treacherous dives to the ship in 2002, videotaping each expedition before it ran out of money for more dives. This year, instead of diving to the wreck, Martin McClellan, leader of the team, looked for cash. What he found was the federal government’s Abandoned Ship Wreck Act. But that has requirements.

“The only way to qualify for money is to have the item you’re researching listed on the National Register,” McClellan said.

By February, McClellan had begun the time-consuming application process through the Nevada State Historical Preservation Office. He secured a $7,500 state grant for New Millennium, to be used in August and September when three more dives to the steamship are planned.

The dives, combined with three remote-operated vehicle expeditions planned for summer, will cost about $18,000. McClellan said he has only raised about $4,000.