Several organizations, community members and local dockworkers took to the water last weekend to help cleanse Santa Barbara Harbor of accumulated seafloor junk.

Santa Barbara’s third annual ocean cleaning event, “Operation Clean Sweep,” took place last Saturday from 8 a.m. until noon. A team of 15 divers, including commercial fisherman and Santa Barbara City College students, volunteered their time to scan the ocean floor. Divers swam under the Marina 2 boat dock of Santa Barbara Harbor to remove and retrieve items that may have fallen off the station while employees were working, such as wrenches, bicycles, steering wheels and jewelry.

The participants were comprised partly of SBCC students from the school’s Marine Technology Dept. Chris Nixon, an SBCC student and member of the Santa Barbara Channel Islands Diving Services, said the condition of the water prompted the need for a cleanup.

“We’re doing this just to clean up the Harbor and make it more enjoyable for everyone,” Nixon said. “It’s good that we do this, because the Harbor is the dirtiest water in Santa Barbara.”

The event was announced a month prior to the sweep and attracted community members throughout the city to participate in this coastal care project for Santa Barbara’s waters. Ricky Godking, SBCC student and member of Salty Dog Dive Services, said he believed the project benefited the life above and below the water’s surface.

“It’s good to keep the ocean clean for wildlife,” Godking said.

Salty Dog Dive Services owner Rick Sanchez hosted this year’s Operation Clean Sweep. Sanchez said he feels strongly committed in continuing to serve the Santa Barbara community by keeping the Harbor clean.

“It feels good to clean the trash on the bottom, and its very nice to see the community helping out,” Sanchez said. “We even found a wedding ring. To clean the bottom we attach a rope to the dock by tying it to a boat and use … the wench to pull up anything we find.”

Sanchez said that, in addition to cleaning the harbor environment, the community involvement fostered by the program is a success in itself.

“It’s nice to see how many people volunteer, how they volunteer,” Sanchez said. “I enjoy seeing people from the community clean up the bottom. We need to inform people that everything gets drained to the Harbor, so don’t litter.”

Volunteer divers from Surfrider Foundation and Santa Barbara Channelkeeper, as well as commercial fisherman, participated in this effort. According to Sanchez, the event has been responsible for the retrieval of considerable amounts of seafloor junk on each of its three successive occasions. Sanchez, who said he was known locally as “Dirty Dive Sanchez,” has earned a reputation of recovering items and waste from the deep.