Major Stream Restoration Agreement flowing forwardMay 22nd, 2014 by Geoff, Executive Director
The Mono Lake Committee recently completed an innovative Stream Restoration Agreement with the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (DWP) that promises a healthy future for 19 miles of Rush, Lee Vining, Parker, and Walker creeks and certainty about the restoration of their fisheries, streamside forests, birds, and wildlife.
The Agreement, negotiated jointly with California Trout and the California Department of Fish & Wildlife, implements a comprehensive plan for streamflow delivery, monitoring, and adaptive management built on extensive scientific studies over the past 15 years. In short, the Agreement will make the most of the water allocated to the creeks and lake under Los Angeles’ Mono Basin water licenses.
Stream Restoration Agreement benefits
In 1994 the California State Water Resources Control Board ordered intensive study by designated Stream Scientists of how, exactly, to assure restoration of Mono’s tributaries damaged by excessive water diversions. The studies resulted in the development of specific day-by-day, stream-by-stream flow regimes that mimic natural runoff patterns and activate the natural processes that will restore the streams.
The Agreement implements these flows—the single most important element for effective stream restoration. Rush Creek’s valuable and rare bottomland forest and channel habitat will be restored. Walker and Parker creek flows will benefit trout all the way to the lake’s edge. Lee Vining Creek flows will be optimized for fish and wildlife habitat.
Additionally, under the Agreement, collaborative operational planning will assure reliable aqueduct operations to achieve both restoration and water export. Costs will be shared and compliance will be simplified. Additionally, scientific monitoring and adaptive management, directed by independent scientists, will assure that recovery is achieved. The Fall 2013 Mono Lake Newsletter provides extensive details on all of these Agreement elements.
So where do things stand now? As Mono Lake Committee members know, an agreement on paper is one thing; translating it into progress on the ground is another. The Agreement includes a four-year timeframe for accomplishing a long checklist of items. There have been a few delays, but progress is being made.
First on the list is the completion of a new water license for DWP. The license must include both the new provisions of the Stream Restoration Agreement as well as the current requirements, which exist in a scattered set of State Water Board documents, decisions, and orders. During the meticulous process of bringing all license requirements together, the Committee’s top priority was to make sure that no requirements were lost. In early May a final document was submitted to the State Water Board, which will now proceed with internal review, public comment, and the final steps necessary to issue a new license.
One major item on the Agreement checklist—design of the new Grant Lake Reservoir outlet—is well underway. This “hole in the dam” will allow the aqueduct to achieve two goals: to deliver water to the people of Los Angeles and to protect and restore Mono Lake and the Mono Basin streams providing that water. Analysis of core samples drilled at the site last winter is informing DWP’s conceptual design work, and two design options remain under consideration. More detailed work on a preferred design will begin this summer. Additionally, and significantly, environmental review of construction impacts began in April.
The Committee will continue to dedicate significant time and effort to moving these checklist items and others to completion. The rewards are close at hand, and with continued vigilance we can accomplish real change on the ground.
This post was also published as an article in the Summer 2014 Mono Lake Newsletter.