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Mono Lake Committee goes net-zero with solar

Tuesday, July 25th, 2017 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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In 2010 the Mono Lake Committee started the process of converting to solar power with nine solar panels installed on the roof of the “ice house” office building, and then added an additional 33 panels to the roof of the bookstore building in 2012. We also took a number of conservation measures, such as switching to LED bulbs in the bookstore, and have been monitoring our usage carefully. By 2016 we had completed our big conservation steps and reduced our annual grid power demand by over 80%.

Despite these reductions, we had a goal to generate all the power needed for the bookstore and offices right here on the property. In late June 2017, Sierra Solar installed 16 more panels, and now that the grid-intertie has been completed, we are expecting to achieve net zero power demand on the grid on an annual basis!

Four panels fit on the canopy over the main bookstore doors, generating power and providing visitors with a visual example of our commitment to sustainable energy. Photo by Elin Ljung.

Most of the Committee’s solar panels are largely invisible to members and visitors since they’re atop the bookstore and ice house office roofs. We asked Jim at Sierra Solar to check (more…)

Time lapse: Mono Lake rising

Thursday, June 29th, 2017 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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Want to see Mono Lake rising before your eyes? Check out this time lapse from May 25 to June 25, when the lake rose an incredible 1.2 vertical feet!

You’ll see wildlife along the shore investigating the changing habitat as lagoons form, tufa blocks get submerged, and the grass floods. You might also notice that the lake rise speeds up in early June, when warm weather started melting snow in the high country more quickly, sending record volumes of water down the streams and to the lake.

Mono Lake has risen 2.8 feet so far this calendar year and is projected to rise another 1.5 feet by year’s end. It’s a remarkable time to be at Mono Lake when it’s rising so fast—make plans to visit this summer and see for yourself!

Tioga Pass will open on Thursday, June 29 at 8:00am

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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According to Yosemite National Park, Tioga Pass will open for the season to all vehicular traffic on Thursday, June 29 at 8:00am.

Current conditions at the eastern entrance to Yosemite National Park. Tioga Pass will open for the season on Thursday, June 29 at 8:00am. Photo courtesy of Yosemite National Park.

There will be minimal services available—no drinking water, gasoline, food, lodging, or cell phone service (911 emergency calls will not be operational). The Tuolumne Meadows Wilderness Center will be open from 8:30am to 4:30pm. Tamarack Flat is the only campground currently open along the Tioga Road, and it fills nearly every day on a first-come, first served basis.

For hikers and backpackers: “Anyone planning to hike or backpack near Tuolumne Meadows and in all high elevation areas of Yosemite should be prepared for winter hiking and camping conditions. Trails are still impacted by snow and ice. River crossings are high and swift moving. There are several high water areas currently impacting the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and the John Muir Trail (JMT) in Yosemite National Park. Trail conditions may vary at any time.”

Cyclists and pedestrians may use the road tomorrow, Wednesday, June 28. Find the full text of the Yosemite press release here.

Well, I guess we know who will be winning our office Tioga Pass poll!

When will Tioga Pass open? Here’s our office poll….

Monday, June 26th, 2017 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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The Tioga Pass area on the summer solstice, June 20, 2017. Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

The question of the year so far is “When will Tioga Pass open?” Your guess is as good as ours. In fact, here’s the office poll—compare your guess to ours!

  • Jess: June 16 soft opening; June 17 official
  • Elin: June 23 at noon
  • Bartshe: June 23
  • Ellen: June 24
  • Nora: June 26
  • Gabby: June 27
  • Greg: June 28 at noon
  • Lisa: June 29
  • Arya: June 30
  • Andrew: June 30
  • Geoff: July 1
  • Julissa: July 6

At 9,945 feet above sea level, Tioga Pass is the highest point on Highway 120 and the California State Highway system. There are 26 avalanche zones that this year had snowdrifts upwards of 50 feet, often concealing rocks and trees. Once the road is clear of snow, crews must repair any damage to the pavement, shoulders, and guardrails. The latest Tioga Pass opening date was July 8, 1933, and the earliest was April 29, 1988 … we’re all wondering what it will be this year!

Updated on Tuesday, June 27 at 4:30pm to add that it looks like Lisa will be the winner, unless we get a strange summer snowstorm!

Record runoff reaches the Rush Creek delta

Sunday, June 25th, 2017 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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Photo by Bartshe Miller.

Unlike Mono Lake’s other tributaries, Rush Creek hasn’t experienced high restorative flows of water since the decision was made to restore the creeks in the mid-1990s. Until this year! Rush has been receiving its highest flows in 50 years, near and exceeding a volume of 800 cubic feet per second. The work that all this water is doing is visible at the delta, where the creek meets Mono Lake in a plume of fresh, turbid water. The foreground of the photo above is a laminar flow of fresh water where sediment drops out and builds the delta habitat.

Check back during this runoff season for more stream restoration updates here on the Mono-logue—you can also find them all by clicking on the “2017 runoff” tag, below.

Tioga Pass “lower gate” will open on Monday, June 19 at 2:00pm

Saturday, June 17th, 2017 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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Caltrans will open the “lower gate” on Highway 120 west, Tioga Pass, on Monday, June 19 at 2:00pm.

This gate will be opened on Monday, June 19, 2017 at 2:00pm. Photo by Elin Ljung.

The lower gate is located 3.5 miles west of Highway 395, and when it is open visitors and locals can access the high country near the eastern entrance to Yosemite National Park. The park gate will remain closed; access to Tuolumne Meadows and beyond is still not possible by car.

The area of Tioga Pass around the park gate is still mostly snow-covered, lakes are covered in old unstable ice, and creeks and rivers are running very fast and cold, so be prepared for those conditions if you plan to recreate there once the lower gate is open.

Seven times more water in the snowpack than this time last year

Wednesday, June 14th, 2017 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

The ASO survey data arrived from the June 5 flight, and in a nutshell? There’s A LOT of water still contained up in the snowpack. The data for the Rush Creek watershed indicates that 64% of the April 1st snowpack remains, containing about 78,000 acre-feet of water. At this time last year—a drought year—only about 10,500 acre-feet of water was left in the meager Rush Creek snowpack. This year at the start of June there’s over seven times more water up in the snowpack, much of which will melt and flow into Mono Lake!

Check back during this runoff season for more stream restoration updates here on the Mono-logue—you can also find them all by clicking on the “2017 runoff” tag, below.

Sonora Pass (Highway 108) opening today at 2:00pm

Tuesday, June 13th, 2017 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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This just in from Caltrans—Sonora Pass (Highway 108) is scheduled to open today at 2:00pm.

From the press release: “The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) would like to notify the traveling public that State Route (SR) 108 over Sonora Pass is scheduled to open today at 2 p.m. Snow and debris have been removed and work to ensure the traveling public’s safety is finishing up.

“The State Route opening is dependent on favorable weather. If the area is impacted by inclement weather Caltrans may have to re-close the highway.

“Caltrans would like to also remind travelers of the truck restrictions recently enacted on SR 108 and advise big rig drivers to continue to use an alternate route.”

Rush Creek’s Channel 8 is full of water

Monday, June 12th, 2017 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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Photo by Bartshe Miller.

The Mono Lake Committee’s 2017 seasonal staff have arrived and are getting two weeks of training about all things Mono Lake. On Friday, June 9 they were in the field with Executive Director Geoff and Education Director Bartshe, checking out the streams in the south part of the basin: Lee Vining, Parker, Walker, and Rush creeks.

Here they are at a section of lower Rush Creek known as “Channel 8.” In most years, the channel right behind where the staff are standing is dry. But this year there’s enough water to fill the channel from bank to bank, rejuvenating the water table, depositing new sediment, spreading seeds, and bringing new life back to the Rush Creek bottomlands.

Check back during this runoff season for more stream restoration updates here on the Mono-logue—you can also find them all by clicking on the “2017 runoff” tag, below.

Over 800 cfs of water in lower Rush Creek, on its way to Mono Lake

Sunday, June 11th, 2017 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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Photo by Bartshe Miller.

Wednesday afternoon (June 7) at the Rush Creek culvert on Test Station Road: On this hot afternoon the creek was running at about 820 cubic feet per second when Education Director Bartshe Miller took the UC Santa Cruz Natural History Field Quarter class on a tour of the Mono Basin’s complex plumbing. It’s great to see the water so brown and turbid—that means sediments are getting moved downstream toward the Rush Creek delta, where they will get deposited, improving the delta habitat for birds and animals.

Check back during this runoff season for more stream restoration updates here on the Mono-logue—you can also find them all by clicking on the “2017 runoff” tag, below.

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