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Rush Creek dodges another setback: Mono Lake Committee action prompts flow adjustment

Wednesday, March 16th, 2016 by Lisa, Eastern Sierra Policy Director
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Despite some snow on the peaks and forecasters still calling for an El Niño weather pattern, Grant Lake Reservoir remains at a precariously low level. With three Southern California Edison (SCE) reservoirs upstream, and four years of drought to catch up from, Grant will be the last reservoir to benefit from this year’s runoff. Since lower Rush Creek is dependent on Grant Lake Reservoir for its water, and because special water management rules are triggered when Grant drops to a certain level, the Mono Lake Committee was busy in December ensuring that the best possible situation was secured for Rush Creek for the remainder of the winter.

A snow-covered Grant Lake Reservoir at the lowest it has been since 2009, showing the current low volume of water (approximately 11,000 acre-feet) and exposed banks. Photo by Santiago Escruceria.

A snow-covered Grant Lake Reservoir at the lowest it has been since 2009, showing the current low volume of water (approximately 11,000 acre-feet) and exposed banks. Photo by Santiago Escruceria.

Grant can only go so low

In 1994, the California State Water Resources Control Board, by way of Decision 1631, had the foresight to protect flows in Rush Creek from scenarios in which Grant Lake Reservoir gets abnormally low. (more…)

More delays for Mill Creek: Administrative technicality delays return conveyance construction

Friday, November 13th, 2015 by Lisa, Eastern Sierra Policy Director
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Unfortunately, the saga continues for the lawful return of water to Mill Creek.

The Mono Lake Committee has been monitoring Mill Creek water in the Mono Basin since 1999. Photo by Sara Matthews.

The Mono Lake Committee has been monitoring Mill Creek water in the Mono Basin since 1999. Photo by Sara Matthews.

After Mono County denied Southern California Edison (SCE) an easement necessary to rehabilitate the existing Mill Creek return conveyance, SCE was forced to file for an extension from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to explore other pipe routes. Over the summer, FERC denied the request on the grounds that it did not demonstrate that the submitted proposals were within the scope of the originally authorized construction. Fortunately, this technicality can easily be resolved by (more…)

“Steps for Snow” event at Mono Lake

Thursday, November 12th, 2015 by Lisa, Eastern Sierra Policy Director
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Steps-for-Snow-kids

On Saturday, November 21 at 10:00am, Lee Vining community members will gather at the Mono Basin Scenic Area Visitor Center and walk to Mono Lake to show support and hope for positive global climate progress at the Paris Climate Summit. Join us to support a renewable energy future and a commitment to care for our planet with personal action in solidarity with concerned citizens around the world. (more…)

Mono’s streams fare better than expected: Record summer precipitation spared streams worst of the drought

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015 by Lisa, Eastern Sierra Policy Director
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A surprising thing happened this year in Lee Vining: record-breaking spring and summer precipitation which, thankfully, minimized drought-related stress on vegetation and trout in Mono Lake’s tributary streams. Instead of the brown-gray colors of drought, we saw unusually green vegetation for most of the summer—even the wildflowers were surprisingly robust. The rain was mostly
associated with thunderstorms, when twenty-degree drops in ambient air temperature weren’t unusual. This cooling effect, in the form of rain and air temperature, helped keep the creeks cool enough for trout.

But as soon as the effects of the precipitation dropped off in August, vegetation immediately responded to the extremely dry conditions—an indication that the plants had been living off surface moisture and not a healthy groundwater system.

Trout monitoring on Lee Vining Creek happens annually to track the health of individual fish and population numbers. Photo by Lisa Cutting.

Trout monitoring on Lee Vining Creek happens annually to track the health of individual fish and population numbers. Photo by Lisa Cutting.

Committee expands monitoring program

In an effort to better understand the effects of the drought, the Mono Lake Committee added bi-monthly monitoring of (more…)

Mono Basin Solar Walk: Celebrating steps toward a renewable energy future

Thursday, September 24th, 2015 by Lisa, Eastern Sierra Policy Director
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Lee Vining students with their Solar Walk poster. Photo courtesy of Janet Carle.

On Sunday, September 27 the community of Lee Vining will host a Solar Walk to celebrate and learn from businesses and residents that have installed solar systems as a renewable energy source. We will visit several local solar installations in Lee Vining beginning at the Mono Basin Scenic Area Visitor Center at 1:00pm. From there we will make stops at the Lee Vining Community Center, Channel Shell gas station, and the Mono Lake Committee Information Center & Bookstore.

“Solar Pioneer” tokens of appreciation, made by local schoolchildren, will be presented in appreciation of leadership in using the renewable power of the Eastern Sierra sun. After the walk, local solar installer Sierra Solar will display solar panels and information on incentives and the process in front of the El Mono Motel & Latte Da Coffee Café. Mono Basin homeowners who have installed solar panels will share their experience and cost savings as well.

We hope you will join our community in celebrating the potential of solar as we move into a future of renewable energy.

To join the walk, simply meet at the Forest Service Scenic Area Visitor Center in Lee Vining at 1:00pm and plan on walking about 1/2 a mile. Children are encouraged to attend!

Sierra Solar staff installed 33 panels on the Committee's bookstore roof in October. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

Sierra Solar staff installed 33 panels on the Committee’s bookstore roof in October 2012. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

Inyo National Forest increases fire restrictions

Saturday, September 12th, 2015 by Lisa, Eastern Sierra Policy Director
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Starting yesterday, September 11, 2015, the Inyo National Forest has extended current fire restrictions to now include all wilderness areas of the Inyo National Forest.

An as-yet-unnamed wildfire started on Saturday, September 12 near Green Creek just north of the Mono Basin. Photo by Lisa Cutting.

An as-yet-unnamed wildfire started on Saturday, September 12 near Green Creek just north of the Mono Basin. Photo by Lisa Cutting.

The Hoover, John Muir, Ansel Adams, Boundary Peak, White Mountains, Golden Trout, and South Sierra wilderness areas are no longer exempt from fire restrictions. (more…)

Caltrans Rockfall Project work suspended for the rest of the year; no more traffic delays north of Lee Vining

Friday, August 14th, 2015 by Lisa, Eastern Sierra Policy Director
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As of Wednesday, August 12, the contractor completed Stage 1 of the Lee Vining Rockfall Safety Project and all equipment, including one-lane traffic control signals and barricades, have been removed from the project site. Since early May, Highway 395 north of Lee Vining had been reduced to one-lane to allow the crew room to maneuver—scaling rocks off the slopes, installing anchored mesh, and applying blends of soil amendments and seeds for successful revegetation.

The completed work on Slope 6 of the Lee Vining Rockfall Safety Project: rocks scaled away, anchored mesh installed, and mulch, soil amendments, and seeds applied. Photo by Sandra Noll.

The completed work on Slope 6 of the Lee Vining Rockfall Safety Project: rocks scaled away, anchored mesh installed, and mulch, soil amendments, and seeds applied. Photo by Sandra Noll.

Stage 1 is completed and four of the six project slopes are done. Stage 2 will address slopes 3 and 4 and will begin in spring 2016 as soon as weather conditions allow for work.

The project was originally planned to take two seasons to complete and although it appeared for a while that the entire project would be finished this year, the contractor is playing it safe by not transitioning to the next phase and allowing an entire season for Stage 2. Traffic delays are done for now and all of us—including the contractor—will know what to expect next spring.

Breaking news: No more bobcat trapping in California

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015 by Lisa, Eastern Sierra Policy Director
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On Wednesday afternoon, August 5, the California Department of Fish & Wildlife Commission voted 3–2 to end the trapping of bobcats throughout the entire state. This vote ends an archaic—and some would argue inhumane—practice of live-trapping bobcats in order to export pelts to China and Russia for high-end fashion demand.

A bobcat spotted in the Mono Basin sagebrush. Photo courtesy of Lundy Schneider.

A bobcat spotted in the Mono Basin sagebrush. Photo courtesy of Lundy Schneider.

Over two years ago, the Bobcat Protection Act of 2013 directed the Commission to consider two alternatives to protect bobcats: Option 1 would designate “no-trapping zones,” primarily around protected natural areas; and Option 2, which would make it unlawful to trap bobcats anywhere in California. After just as many years of staff reports, public meetings, and passionate and emotional discussions, the Commission followed the overwhelming majority of public sentiment and voted to ban trapping altogether.

During this process, the Mono Lake Committee submitted two letters and attended (more…)

Local Caltrans crews repair damaged Lee Vining Creek Trail

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015 by Lisa, Eastern Sierra Policy Director
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On Monday, July 13 after several days of heavy rains, the Lee Vining Creek Trail at the south end of town was so damaged by erosion and undercutting it was no longer safe to use.

Within 24 hours of putting a call in to the Lee Vining Caltrans maintenance facility, the trail was fixed and safe again for visitors to use. Thank you to Randy Walker and local Caltrans workers for the swift and expert response! The creek trail—a local and visitor favorite—is once again available for those wanting to explore the beauty of Lee Vining Creek below town.

Before and after. Photos by Arya Degenhardt and Greg Reis.

Looking down the eroded trail on July 13, and looking back up on July 16 after the trail was repaired. Photos by Arya Degenhardt and Greg Reis.

Eastern Sierra loses James Wilson

Saturday, July 18th, 2015 by Lisa, Eastern Sierra Policy Director
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It is with heavy hearts and punch-to-the-gut reactions that we convey the news of James Wilson’s passing this past Wednesday at Renown Hospital in Reno. He died from complications of a stroke suffered the week before. He was 67 years old. He is survived by his wife Kay, his daughter Rosanne, son-in-law Bayard, and grandson Ansel.

Kay & James Wilson pictured last September at the Mono Basin Outdoor Education Center. Photo by Arya Degenhardt.

Kay & James Wilson pictured last September at the Mono Basin Outdoor Education Center. Along with Kay, James was a steadfast supporter of the Mono Lake Committee’s work on behalf of Mono Lake. Photo by Arya Degenhardt.

For residents and frequent visitors to the Eastern Sierra, James’ accomplishments are familiar and numerous. He was the founder of Wilson’s Eastside Sports in Bishop, co-founder of Friends of the Inyo, active member of Eastern Sierra Audubon, the California Wilderness Coalition, and the Bishop Rotary Club; the list goes on and on. Suffice it to say that James was involved in almost every environmental issue that emerged in the region for over 30 years, bringing his calm, principled, and collaborative approach to the table. He was driven by his passionate love for the Eastern Sierra and his strong desire to protect its wild places, encouraging others to get out and experience it firsthand.

As a dedicated and steadfast conservation leader in the Eastern Sierra, an avid birder and naturalist, and friend to many, James Wilson will be deeply missed.

The last of the day's light reflected in a pond in Lundy Canyon last Wednesday, on the evening that James passed away. Photo by Lisa Cutting.

The last of the day’s light reflected in a pond in Lundy Canyon this past Wednesday, the evening that James passed away. Photo by Lisa Cutting.

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