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April 1 Mono Lake level close to critically low threshold

Friday, April 1st, 2016 by Geoff, Executive Director
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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.

Measuring Mono Lake's April 1 elevation

DWP’s Steve Rich and Robbie Di Paolo from the Mono Lake Committee read the lake level gauge together this morning. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

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. (more…)

Will Mono Lake rise in 2016?

Saturday, March 12th, 2016 by Geoff, Executive Director
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The question for 2016: Will the winter be big enough to make Mono Lake rise? The short answer is: stay tuned to see what happens in the second half of winter. Snowpack conditions are the key to lake level forecasting, and they are currently far better than the last four drought years. But the snowpack is not yet above average for the Mono Basin.

Mono Lake Committee staff walked to the narrow moat of water that still separates Negit Island from the mainland last November. Photo by Elin LJung.

Mono Lake Committee staff walked to the narrow moat of water that still separates Negit Island from the mainland last November. Photo by Elin Ljung.

Will water exports be allowed?

The lake level is currently 6378 feet above sea level. The rules controlling water exports to Los Angeles recognize the ecological jeopardy the lake is in when it approaches 6377 feet, and they add a twist. As usual, the lake level gets measured on April 1—if it is below 6377, no exports are allowed for the following 12 months. That part is straightforward and easy.

The twist comes in when the hydrologic modeling (more…)

Keeping an eye on Mono Lake’s California Gulls

Saturday, February 27th, 2016 by Geoff, Executive Director
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As the winter of 2015–16 unfolds in the Mono Basin, those of us lucky enough to live here are enjoying tracking every storm and taking the measure of El Niño’s effects. After years of drought, many Mono Lake issues are critically affected by the size of this winter’s snowpack.

But we can’t wait until the final snowflake has fallen to plan for 2016. This is especially true for the protection of the California Gulls that nest on Negit Island and surrounding islets, because the magnitude of the winter will directly determine how safe the nesting ground is this year.

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Nesting gulls were safe from coyotes in 2015 but Committee wildlife camera observations confirmed that coyotes are active in the landbridge area. Photo from a Mono Lake Committee wildlife camera.

California’s four-year drought has lowered Mono Lake more than five feet, causing the re-emergence of a substantial portion of the landbridge that connected the north shore to the gull nesting grounds in (more…)

Every drop counts—make a 2015 donation now!

Tuesday, December 29th, 2015 by Geoff, Executive Director
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Photo courtesy of Malcolm Mosher, Jr.

Photo courtesy of Malcolm Mosher, Jr.

Together, we survived the fourth consecutive year of drought. The Mono Lake Committee works year-round to protect and restore Mono Lake, its tributary streams, and your favorite places in the Mono Basin, and we couldn’t do it without your support. We hope you’ll consider making a year-end donation to help these ongoing efforts.

Making a donation is quick and easy—click the button below or give us a call at (760) 647-6595. Thank you, and happy New Year!

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California’s urban water conservation efforts

Wednesday, November 18th, 2015 by Geoff, Executive Director
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The fourth year of drought has ushered in intensive urban water conservation efforts across the state.

South Tufa, with Negit and Paoha islands and the Bodie Hills beyond. Photo by Erv Nichols.

South Tufa, with Negit and Paoha islands and the Bodie Hills beyond. Photo by Erv Nichols.

In Southern California there are many ways residents can save water (see the Mono Lake Committee’s water conservation web page for a lot of great and simple ideas). One highly popular option is replacing water-hungry lawn turf with drought-resistant native plants. So popular, in fact, that all $350 million in rebate incentives authorized by the Metropolitan Water District in June was spent by July. (more…)

Progress toward a new license for streams in 2016

Monday, November 16th, 2015 by Geoff, Executive Director
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The 2013 Mono Basin Stream Restoration Agreement is a major milestone in the long-running effort to recover the health of Rush, Lee Vining, Parker, and Walker creeks after the damage caused by decades of excessive water diversions. The current priority is for the terms of the Agreement to be incorporated into the official water license issued by the California State Water Resources Control Board to the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power.

Mono Lake, Negit Island, and the Bodie Hills beyond. Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

Mono Lake, Negit Island, and the Bodie Hills beyond. Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

While progress has been slow, completion and formal approval of the newly revised license draws ever closer. Once the license is issued, the many benefits of the (more…)

New twists as Mono Lake’s level falls: Spotlight on lake level forecasting in 2016

Thursday, October 29th, 2015 by Geoff, Executive Director
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California’s four-year drought has lowered Mono Lake more than five feet. The decline has been disappointing to watch yet ecologically survivable thanks to the protections won by the Mono Lake Committee and Mono Lake advocates two decades ago. 2016, however, could change this story for the worse.

Photo by Erv Nichols.

Photo by Erv Nichols.

The winter of 2015–16 lies ahead, and a wet winter with ample Mono Basin precipitation is the hope of all Mono Lake friends. But as we have learned over the years at the Committee, our work is most effective when we hope for the best and prepare for the worst. In this case, another dry winter that pushes the state into a fifth drought year would push new and potentially contentious Mono Lake management issues to the forefront.

The landbridge to the gulls

The fall in lake level to date has caused the landbridge near the lake’s north shore to re-emerge and grow ever bigger, threatening to provide a pathway for coyotes to (more…)

Mono Lake Committee divests from fossil fuels

Monday, July 13th, 2015 by Geoff, Executive Director
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The Mono Lake Committee has now fully divested from fossil fuels. Photo by Arya Degenhardt.

The Mono Lake Committee has now fully divested from fossil fuels. Photo by Arya Degenhardt.

A worldwide fossil fuel divestment movement has begun involving governments, educational institutions, foundations, faith-based groups, individuals, and non-profit organizations. Participants range from Stanford University to the City of Seattle to the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation to Britain’s Prince Charles. We’re pleased to inform members that the Mono Lake Committee is part of the movement.

As inspirational climate leader and Mono Lake Committee member Bill McKibben says, divestment is a simple, direct action that counters “the scary new math of climate change.”

The Committee’s savings account hardly rivals those of big institutions. But similar to our solar panel installation several years ago, we need to continue to do our part to counter carbon pollution—an issue close to home as we grapple with the effects of a changing climate at Mono Lake.

While coal, gas, and oil companies were never a special focus in the Committee’s investments, they were often present in the diversified funds we used to safeguard endowment gifts, member bequests, and other savings. But no longer. The Mono Lake Committee has now fully divested from fossil fuels.

This post was also published as an article in the Summer 2015 Mono Lake Newsletter.

Drought response in the LA–Mono Lake watershed

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015 by Geoff, Executive Director
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The word of the day, week, month, and year in Southern California water (as with all of California) is “drought.” How bad will it be? How warm will it be? How can Governor Jerry Brown’s 25% water use reduction be implemented? What about next year?

South Tufa, Negit and Paoha Islands, and the Bodie Hills beyond, after a spring storm. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

South Tufa, Negit and Paoha Islands, and the Bodie Hills beyond, after a spring storm. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

Los Angeles and Mono Lake are two ends of a watershed, connected by the Los Angeles Aqueduct. The effects of the drought on Los Angeles—and the response plans—are critical to Mono Lake, especially in this dry year as lower water exports kick in to slow the falling level of Mono Lake. The good news is that LA is already working on achieving an aggressive set of (more…)

Grant Lake Reservoir outlet design

Friday, June 12th, 2015 by Geoff, Executive Director
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The Los Angeles Aqueduct diversion dam on Lee Vining Creek was upgraded 15 years ago in order to better deliver mandated flows to the long-suffering creek. Now progress is moving quickly to apply a substantially larger fix to achieve required restoration flows on Rush Creek, Mono Lake’s largest tributary.

A pair of 12-foot-tall Langemann gates will be installed in the Grant Lake Reservoir spillway to allow peak restoration flows in Rush Creek. Photos by Arya Degenhardt.

A pair of 12-foot-tall Langemann gates will be installed in the Grant Lake Reservoir spillway to allow peak restoration flows in Rush Creek. Photos by Arya Degenhardt.

Thanks to the Mono Basin Stream Restoration Agreement negotiated by the Mono Lake Committee with the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (DWP), along with our friends at the California Department of Fish & Wildlife and CalTrout (see Fall 2013 Mono Lake Newsletter), a new facility will be constructed at Grant Lake Reservoir to overcome the limitations of DWP’s existing WWII-era infrastructure. (more…)

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