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Sonora Pass (Highway 108) opening tomorrow at noon

Thursday, June 8th, 2017 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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Update at 11:24am on Friday: Sonora Pass will not be opening today. Crews will reevaluate tomorrow.

The latest news from Caltrans is that Sonora Pass (Highway 108) is scheduled to open tomorrow, Friday, June 9, at noon. Opening the road is subject to current weather conditions.

The Tioga Pass road at the eastern entrance to Yosemite National Park, just before crews plowing from east and west met and punched through. Photo courtesy of Yosemite National Park.

According to the Caltrans email, there is no estimated date for opening Tioga Pass (Highway 120) yet. Caltrans crews plowing from the east have met up with Yosemite National Park crews plowing from the west, and work will now continue to remove snow from the shoulders, remove rocks from the road, and repair any damaged sections of road. In particular, extensive damage occurred to guardrails from the unusually heavy snowpack, so those are being repaired and/or replaced before the road can be opened.

Summer 2017 Mono Lake Newsletter now online

Thursday, June 1st, 2017 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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The benchmarks in this issue of the Mono Lake Newsletter show the smallest change in lake level that I think we’ve ever published (see page 13).

Out on the landbridge where we installed the temporary fence to keep the nesting gulls safe, wildlife cameras capture the lake’s rise on some of the very flattest exposed lakebed, so even small changes in lake level are clearly visible. The 2.3-inch-rise shown in the photos is only the beginning this year.

After five years of streams slowing to a trickle and Mono Lake dropping, this is a year of renewal and revival for the Mono Basin’s resilient natural systems. Streams are overflowing their banks, meadows are flooded, and thirsty cottonwoods are plunging their roots into the saturated soil. Mono Lake is rising fast—water is lapping higher on the tufa towers and salt-tolerant plants along the shore now have wet feet.

It’s a year of benchmarks for human-engineered systems too. Grant Lake Reservoir will flow over the spillway, too full to contain the immense volumes of snowmelt from the upper Rush Creek watershed. Mono Lake will sequentially flood the posts of the temporary fence, shortening the length needed to protect the gulls. Salty lake water will change the paths at South Tufa, forcing visitors to walk higher above the new shore.

This is a year not to be missed. It has already joined the ranks of other big years: 1969, 1983, 1995 … 2017.

So come to Mono Lake, find a spot on the shore, and take note. The water’s edge wasn’t there yesterday, and it won’t be there tomorrow—Mono Lake is refilling before our eyes. At the end of your stay in the Mono Basin, return to your benchmark spot and see how the shoreline has changed. You’ll be able to say that you were here during the amazing summer of 2017 and saw it happening.

Tioga Pass: Memorial Day weekend update

Thursday, May 25th, 2017 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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Tioga Pass will not be open for this holiday weekend, and there is still no estimated opening date. But plowing crews have rounded the corner near Ellery Lake, making good progress toward the Yosemite National Park entrance gate.

A photo from Sunday, May 21, 2017 taken at Ellery Lake looking back east at Ellery Bowl with bikers for scale. Photo courtesy of Nathan Taylor.

Warm weather is aiding the crews as they work, but avalanches remain a hazard. As work progresses, pedestrians, bicyclists, skiers, etc. are advised to stay out of these areas (the photos in this post were taken on a Sunday, when crews do not work). (more…)

Tioga Pass from the air

Monday, May 8th, 2017 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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Caltrans just sent out a video of a flyover of Tioga Pass, filmed last Monday, May 1. The video shows the road from low in Lee Vining Canyon to the eastern gate to Yosemite National Park; there is no sound in the video.

There is no estimated opening date for Tioga Pass, and this video helps to show why. We knew there was a lot of snow up there—it’s exciting to see just how much!

Find Mono Lake on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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If you’re not already plugged into the Mono Lake Committee’s social media, click over to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

On Facebook, join discussions about our work, see upcoming events, check in when you get here, and leave us a review at the end of your stay. Stay up-to-date on our work via Twitter, and enjoy stunning photos of Mono Lake on Instagram. Tag your photos with #monolake to join a great stream of Mono Lake photos, and for a chance to be featured on our account.

Fence post: An update from Mono Lake’s landbridge

Friday, April 21st, 2017 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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The temporary electrified fence protecting Mono Lake’s nesting California Gulls has been up and running for about three weeks now. After a long and snowy winter the gulls’ calls signal spring’s arrival, and it’s gratifying to know that as they build nests and lay eggs out on the islands, they are protected from coyote predation.

Gull researcher Kristie Nelson works on one of the fence sections that extends into Mono Lake. Photo by Geoff McQuilkin.

The fence stretches for about one mile across the landbridge, and is made up of five sections that overlap—an electrified long middle section, two shorter electrified sections at the ends near the water’s edge, and two passive sections at (more…)

Road conditions update: Highway 158 and Highway 120 East opening today

Friday, April 14th, 2017 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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According to the latest press release from Caltrans, Highway 158, the June Lake Loop, and Highway 120 East toward Benton are scheduled to open for the season today at noon and 2:00pm, respectively.

It will probably be months yet before Highway 120 West (Tioga Pass) is open, but snow removal equipment is now in place and starting to work on lower sections of the highway a few miles west of the junction with Highway 395. The snowpack is estimated to be between 8 to 15 feet on the highway, with up to 50-foot snowdrifts in some locations. There is no estimated opening date.

A Caltrans snowblower clearing snow below an avalanche chute on Tioga Pass (Highway 120 West) on April 4, 2017. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

The road to Bodie State Historic Park, Highway 270, remains closed at the request of State Park personnel. The park itself remains closed to visitors after a swarm of earthquakes last December damaged some of Bodie’s buildings and its water system.

North of the Mono Basin, there is no estimated opening date for Highway 108 (Sonora Pass) or Highway 89 (Monitor Pass), though snow removal from the east has begun on both roads. The snowpack on the Sonora Pass road is estimated to be 5 to 12, and 5 feet on the Monitor Pass road.

The fence to protect Mono Lake’s gulls is funded – thank you!

Tuesday, March 28th, 2017 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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Our Indiegogo campaign ended last night at midnight—102% funded with $15,304! Thank you to all 228 of you who contributed to this campaign. We are grateful that you understood the need for a fence, took the time to visit our campaign, and gave generously to help us reach our goal.

What’s next for the fence?

As we watched your donations come in through Indiegogo we felt confident enough to begin ordering fence materials, and this week the fence will be going up! The mostly sunny, calm (more…)

Winter & Spring 2017 Mono Lake Newsletter now online

Thursday, March 9th, 2017 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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Nimble. That’s the word of the year so far for the Mono Lake Committee. We were braced to face a sixth year of drought, with plans and contingencies in place to protect Mono Lake to the best of our ability. And then the calendar ticked over into 2017 and the weather faucets turned on! Suddenly, thankfully, our plans needed some new math.

I guess it shouldn’t surprise me—since 1978 we’ve worked to find solutions to human-created problems, which sometimes requires changing horses mid-stream. (more…)

We still need to build a fence to protect Mono Lake’s California Gulls

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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Those who have been watching Mono Lake drop during the last five years of drought know that we here at the Mono Lake Committee have been preparing to protect nesting California Gulls from opportunistic coyotes with a temporary electric fence across the emerging landbridge.

California Gull parents and chicks on a nesting island in Mono Lake last summer. Photo by Sara Matthews.

And then this January happened! We got record amounts of snow and rain brought by atmospheric rivers—enough to see a visible rise in the level of Mono Lake. We started to hear the perceptive question: “Does this mean you don’t have to build the fence?”

We’re still going to build the fence. There are two main reasons…. (more…)

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