April 1 Mono Lake level close to critically low thresholdApril 1st, 2016 by Geoff, Executive Director
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 6378.11 feet above sea level.
Mono Lake is now just 13 inches above the ecologically precipitous 6377-foot elevation at which the nesting islands become landbridged, lake salinity hits new highs, air quality problems worsen, and stream delta habitat conditions degrade.
With those concerns in mind, the State Water Board rules are more nuanced this year for determining whether or not DWP can export water to Los Angeles. Not only does the lake have to be above 6377 feet for today’s measurement, it also has to be forecast to stay above 6377 every day of the coming year.
This means that we are now awaiting the April and May snow surveys that are required to make those forecasts, so DWP’s export allotment is currently unknown. It could be zero, or it could be 4,500 acre feet, the same as last year.
Here at the Committee we don’t want to see the lake drop dangerously lower and we hope that measurements show enough snow in the mountains to keep the lake above 6377 feet. Given what we know about the winter so far, it’s going to be a close call.
One thing is clear on this April 1 though—water exports cannot begin until the lake forecasting work is completed in May. So it’s no surprise that we became quite concerned in recent weeks when DWP scheduled exports to begin April 1. The Committee responded swiftly. We prepared a letter to the State Water Board to request their intervention. But we didn’t have to send it, because we also engaged DWP on our own. We escalated the urgent matter through multiple layers of management at DWP. After our attorneys spoke to DWP attorneys, DWP agreed that exports should not and would not begin on April 1.
Thanks to Committee members and Mono Lake supporters everywhere, the carefully crafted rules that protect Mono Lake while providing water to Los Angeles are being followed. And they are critical because, as today’s lake level reading demonstrates, the impacts of the drought are far from over at Mono Lake.
Tags: April 1 forecast, April 1 lake level reading, California State Water Resources Control Board, D1631, drought, drought at Mono Lake, export reduction, LADWP, lake level, lakelevel, mono basin, Mono Basin snowpack, Mono Lake, Mono Lake Committee, Mono Lake protection, sierra snowpack, water conservation, water year