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2015 Mono Lake Committee Scholarship now open

April 18th, 2015 by Arya, Communications Director
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at the lakeshore RC

Each year the Mono Lake Committee supports local students pursuing higher education who display a personal connection with Mono Lake and the Mono Lake story with two $1,000 scholarships. Mono County resident high school seniors who have firm plans to attend a two- or four-year college within a year of graduation qualify.

If you are interested in applying, you can find the application here. The application deadline is: Wednesday, May 13, 2015 at 5:00pm. … more »

Caltrans Hwy 395 rockfall project report #2

April 16th, 2015 by Robbie, Project Specialist
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Caltrans-rockfall-update-graphic

Caltrans has released the second road report for the Lee Vining Rockfall Safety Project on Highway 395 along Mono Lake just north of Lee Vining.

Lee Vining Rockfall Safety project update #2

Capture 2b

Updates are also posted regularly on Twitter and Facebook.
Click here for all project updates and background.
Text from the official update is below.

Caltrans-rockfall-update-graphic … more »

New York Times article features Mono Lake

April 16th, 2015 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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Did you catch the New York Times article that featured our very own Mono Lake?

Dr. Scott Stine’s work at Mono Lake, studying old, tufa-encased tree stumps contributed to the understanding of past “megadroughts” in California. Trees once grew along the shores of an ancient, lower Mono Lake. The last 150 years, especially the end of the 20th Century, was much wetter than normal when looking back through the climate of recent centuries.

New York Times: In California, a Wet Era May Be Ending

Lower Tioga gate opening Wednesday, April 15

April 14th, 2015 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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At yesterday’s Local Transportation Commission meeting in Mammoth Lakes, the local Caltrans district supervisor gave the word: the lower gate on the Tioga Road (Highway 120 west) will be opened tomorrow, April 15.

The lower gate on Highway 120 west, Tioga Pass, will be opened tomorrow, April 15. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

The lower gate on Highway 120 west, Tioga Pass, will be opened tomorrow, April 15. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

When the lower gate is open, folks can access the area near the east entrance to Yosemite National Park, including Ellery Lake and Tioga Lake, plus backcountry skiing in the high country.

The campgrounds in the Tioga Pass area are not yet open, and neither are Saddlebag Lake Resort and Tioga Pass Resort. Visitors should use caution in the spring conditions—do not walk out on frozen lakes.

Inyo National Forest campground opening dates

April 13th, 2015 by Robbie, Project Specialist
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Spring is here with high winds, new green leaves on the trees, almost-blooming desert peach, and fishing season opening on Saturday, April 25. That means that Inyo National Forest campgrounds will be opening soon (Mono Basin campgrounds in bold):

Campgrounds open by April 24: 

– Convict Lake
– Sherwin Creek
– Mammoth RV Park
Oh Ridge
June Lake
Gull Lake
Silver Lake
– Big Springs
Lower Lee Vining … more »

‘Tis the season: When will Tioga Pass open?

April 11th, 2015 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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Since it’s such a severe drought, and there’s almost no snow in the Sierra Nevada, Tioga Pass should be open, right? Well, not quite….

The lower gate on Highway 120 west, Tioga Pass, in late January. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

The lower gate on Highway 120 west, Tioga Pass, in late January. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

But this is the time of year to start keeping an eye on the pass. Right now we know that Yosemite National Park will begin snow removal on the Tioga Pass Road on April 15. Even though this year there’s very little snow, crews also have to move downed trees, rocks, and other debris off the road to get it open.

At last Wednesday’s local government meeting here in Lee Vining we got the official word from the Yosemite National Park Superintendent via our Mono County Supervisor that Tioga Pass will open on … more »

Warm March took snowpack to lowest levels on record; Tioga Pass and Gem Lake have biggest March declines ever measured

April 3rd, 2015 by Greg, Information & Restoration Specialist
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Yesterday I was refreshing the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Webpage almost every hour. Over and over again I saw the dramatic pattern across the state—higher double-digit percentages at the highest elevations of almost every watershed, and lower or zero snowpack at the lower elevations.

Finally, this morning, the rest of the Mono Basin data appeared! The good news is that the snowpack in most of the Mono Basin isn’t as bad as the 6% of average at Tioga Pass and Saddlebag Lake. The bad news is that with only 14% of average snow water content, the snowmelt runoff will be lower than anyone anticipated.

Gem Pass, at the highest elevation, tops the charts with 25% of average snow water content. Everywhere else, snow surveyors measured the lowest snow water content ever measured on April 1st. Ellery Lake is 21% of average, and Gem Lake is 12% of average. Also in the Mono Basin, but reported under the San Joaquin River drainage, is Agnew Pass, which lost 7.5 inches of water in March, and currently is only 3% of average (1 inch of water content).

Tioga Pass snowpack has a March decline about 13% of the time. Similar years are shown, with average and 2014 shown for comparison.

Tioga Pass snowpack has a March decline about 13% of the time. Similar years are shown, with average and 2014 shown for comparison.

Gem Pass snowpack has a March decline about 17% of the time. Similar years are shown, with average and 2014 shown for comparison.

Gem Pass snowpack has a March decline about 17% of the time. Similar years are shown, with average and 2014 shown for comparison.

The following is a summary of the five Mono Basin snow courses:

  • Gem Pass lost 2 inches of water in March, and at 8.5″ is about the same as 1977, although not as dry as 1931.
  • Gem Lake lost 5.5 inches of water in March, and at 3.5″ is driest on record (beating 5.9″ in 1976).
  • Tioga Pass lost 6 inches of water in March, and at 1.5″ is driest on record (beating 7.4″ in 1977).
  • Saddlebag Lake lost 6 inches of water in March, and at 2″ is driest on record (beating 9.9″ in 1977).
  • Ellery Lake lost 1.5 inches of water in March, and at 6″ is driest on record (beating 9.7″ in 1977).

Getting to 25%

April 2nd, 2015 by Arya, Communications Director
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In a move that made national news, yesterday Governor Jerry Brown announced the first mandatory water restrictions in California history, as the April 1st snow surveys currently being compiled are tallying the lowest-ever snowpack on record. Under Brown’s order, the California Water Resources Control Board will implement mandatory restrictions to reduce water use by 25%.

Graphic courtesy of GOOD.

See how much water use hides in your daily life with this clever infographic at GOOD.is. Graphic courtesy of GOOD.

It’s no surprise that there are a wide range of opinions about the drought, cutbacks, and even water conservation, but Brown’s announcement still sends an important message: we’re all in this together, and we all have a role to play in stepping it up when it comes to water conservation.

What are your favorite water conservation resources? We’d love to know.

Here are some of the Mono Lake Committee staff’s favorites: … more »

April 1 lake level means reduced water exports to LA, more protection for Mono Lake

April 1st, 2015 by Geoff, Executive Director
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This morning Mono Lake Committee staff met with Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (DWP) personnel to conduct the official annual April 1 reading of the lake level together. The consensus: Mono Lake stands at 6379.01 feet above sea level.

DWP's Brian Norris and Greg Reis from the Mono Lake Committee read the lake level gauge together this morning. Photo by Elin Ljung.

DWP’s Brian Norris and Greg Reis from the Mono Lake Committee read the lake level gauge together this morning. Photo by Elin Ljung.

The lake has declined to a level at which water exports to Los Angeles are, by the terms of the State Water Board’s rules, automatically reduced by 70%. DWP will be limited to 4,500 acre-feet of water export, a lake-protecting restriction that no one, until recently, thought would ever be activated again. It was a solemn, though not unexpected outcome, given that California’s drought is entering its fourth year and the Mono Lake watershed is officially classified as being under “exceptional” drought. … more »

Tioga Pass snowpack lowest on record at 6% of average

March 31st, 2015 by Greg, Information & Restoration Specialist
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As early as late February, it seemed likely that this was going to be the driest year on record. Mono Basin snowpack was lower than any year but 1991, and that year had a “Miracle March” that was absent from the long-range forecasts. Sure enough, the dry pattern didn’t change, and March was very dry.

A low Lundy Lake Reservoir with scant snow on the peaks on March 26, 2015. Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

A low Lundy Lake Reservoir with scant snow on the peaks on March 26, 2015. Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

On Thursday I began checking the snow surveys web page for the April 1st snow survey results, which are conducted within a few days of April 1st. On Friday, results for one of the five Mono Basin “snow courses” appeared. And it was a shocking result: Tioga Pass snow water content is at only 6% of average. … more »

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