Mono Lake Newsletter

DWP-hosted meeting ushers in new era of communication

by Heidi Hopkins

A collegial, communicative atmosphere pervaded the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) restoration meeting this April. DWP voluntarily convened the meeting to discuss Mono Basin stream restoration, monitoring activities, and forecasted runoff and operations.

According to Peter Kavounas, DWP’s Mono Basin restoration manager, the agency decided to offer two meetings annually to improve communication. "It’s an opportunity for all of us to bring issues to light before they become problems."

The Committee, state and federal agencies, DWP, and restoration consultants spent a day and a half discussing the nuts and bolts of Mono Basin restoration. That the meeting ended early both days was testament to the progress made in opening up communication between formerly opposing parties and building a promising working relationship.

All of the consultants that DWP has hired to implement the restoration activities were present at the meeting. These include: hydrologic engineer Michael Ramey and fisheries resource expert Dr. Dudley Reiser who together will design sediment bypass facilities, wildlife biologist Don Paul and senior ecologist Dr. David Chapin who will monitor waterfowl and waterfowl habitat, and river ecologist Dr. William Trush and aquatic ecologist Dr. Chris Hunter who have been working for the past two years on stream monitoring.

What follows is a recap of a portion of the meetings.

 

Stream channels

DWP voluntarily initiated monitoring on the streams two years ago, in advance of the Water Board’s final order on restoration. The scientist in charge of monitoring, Dr. William Trush, described the mapping he has completed so far and what mapping and other work is scheduled for 1999.

Trush called progress on Channel 10 "superb." Channel 10 is a large meander bend in Rush Creek’s bottomlands that had been plugged by debris during the stream’s period of degradation. Channel 10 was re-opened in 1995. Water tables in the area have rebounded, and the channel now offers numerous deep pools.

 

Fish monitoring

Dr. Chris Hunter explained the various methods of fish sampling and counting that were used in the last two years to monitor fish populations. Methods include day and nighttime snorkeling as well as electrofishing. Dr. Hunter also recommended adding a controlled creek census to the monitoring program, where a selected set of anglers fish according to prescribed protocols for a period of years.

As part of the fish monitoring program, reaches that were surveyed for fish were also systematically mapped to assess the physical habitat.

Based on his observations of Lee Vining Creek, Dr. Hunter is recommending that the stream be considered for Lahontan cutthroat trout. The cold, fast-moving stream provides good conditions for this species of fish—and less than optimal conditions for brown trout. Lahontan cutthroat are considered a threatened species, but can be fished in certain circumstances. The concept of introducing fishable Lahontan cutthroats in Lee Vining Creek was brought up for discussion, but more analysis would be needed before any decision could be made on this proposal.

 

Sediment bypass

The Water Board’s 1998 restoration order called for DWP to design sediment bypass systems for the diversion structures on Walker, Parker, and Lee Vining creeks, behind which sediment is trapped.

In 1999, the consultants will develop conceptual analyses and designs for a wide range of bypass alternatives.

The feasibility of fish passage and rewatering the distributaries on Walker and Parker creeks will also be evaluated as part of the project.

 

Forecast and operations

Gene Coufel, the Bishop-based engineer who oversees DWP’s Mono Basin aqueduct operations, explained how stream restoration flows were met in 1998 and what is anticipated in 1999 based on the April 1 runoff forecast. (See article on page 12 for runoff forecast details.)

 

Real-time data

DWP currently is working on putting real-time hydrologic data on its website. The data site is expected to be completed in a matter of months. Once it’s up and running, anyone with Internet access can find out what the flows are in Lee Vining and other creeks, what the snowpack is at certain locations, what the temperature is at Cain Ranch, and other data collected by DWP. Ultimately, the site will include historical hydrological information dating back to when DWP first installed instruments in the Mono Basin in the 1930s.

 

Ongoing communication

One of the products of the meeting was the concept of a "list server" to enable efficient communication among those working on, or interested in, restoration. Through this kind of electronic "bulletin board," consultants could more readily learn about existing information and track day-to-day developments in the Mono Basin, while the Committee and others could track the scientists’ progress and provide timely input.

The open, congenial exchange of ideas at the meeting bodes well for the future of restoration at Mono Lake.

Heidi Hopkins is the Committee’s Eastern Sierra Policy Director. She’s willing to argue that snow and May don’t go together.

Return to Summer 1999 Newsletter

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Last Updated January 07, 2007