Agencies respond quickly to illegal work along Mono Lake’s shoreNovember 3rd, 2016 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
Two weeks ago, we reported on illegal work happening near Mono Lake’s west shore across from the Tioga Lodge, and the agency response has moved quickly since then.
The illegal work being done included heavy equipment clearing three acres of willows and near-shore habitat on highly protected State Park land, even after State Park staff repeatedly advised the equipment operators of the park boundary, which was well marked. Quick action by Mono Lake Committee staff and multiple agencies halted the activity before more willows and wetland were disturbed, but the damage is alarming. Last week State Parks staff from the Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve and Sacramento began a detailed assessment of the resource damage and will be pursuing appropriate penalties.
In addition, equipment operators diverted a small creek into a newly excavated pond—drying, and then partially burying, the riparian corridor. The creek now exits the pond in a new ditch and then spreads across State Park land before it reaches Mono Lake. Diverting the creek and burying its channel triggered responses from two state agencies—the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board and the Department of Fish & Wildlife.
Lahontan issued a cleanup and abatement order to the owner of the Tioga Lodge with deadlines for returning the creek to its original channel and repairing the damage done to the riparian corridor. One of those deadlines—last Friday, October 28—has passed without any restoration work being done. If the second deadline of this Friday, November 4 is not met, fines of up to $3,000 or more a day may start to accrue.
The Department of Fish & Wildlife notified the owner of the Tioga Lodge that the activities at the creek violate a section of the Fish & Game Code, which may result in civil or criminal prosecution.
There were no permits for any of the activity, which ballooned out from work the Tioga Lodge undertook earlier in the summer to manage trees burned in the Marina Fire. As we reported two weeks ago, Mono County quickly issued a cease and desist order to stop unpermitted grading activity happening on Tioga Lodge property.