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April 1 Mono Lake level: 6378.3 feet above sea level and rising

Monday, April 10th, 2017 by Robbie, Restoration Field Technician
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April 1, the beginning of the runoff year, is a particularly important day for Mono Lake. Each April 1 Mono Lake Committee and Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (DWP) staff walk down to Mono Lake and read the lake level, together. It is particularly important because it is the April 1 lake level that determines how much water is allowed to be diverted from Mono Basin streams to the City of Los Angeles for the year.

Brian Norris from DWP and Robbie Di Paolo from the Mono Lake Committee read the lake level gauge together on April 1, 2017. Photo by Bartshé Miller.

The first time I participated in one of these April 1 lake level readings was in 2015 when the lake had dropped to a level that triggered a 70% reduction of water exports. The second time, the lake narrowly cleared the level that would have halted water exports altogether. Years of drought lowered the lake and heightened concern over available exports, but this year was different. This year Mono Lake is on the rise. (more…)

A skiing adventure to check Mono Lake’s level

Tuesday, January 24th, 2017 by Robbie, Restoration Field Technician
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This January is proving to be the wettest January in our weather recording history. In Lee Vining, we saw 5.5 inches of snow on January 4, and we received a combined 3.92 inches of rain on January 8 and 9. With all this water pouring into Mono Lake, I set out with my coworker Andrew to measure the lake level on cross country skis.

Mono Lake Committee Project Specialist Andrew Youssef. Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

An amused Andrew shuffles towards Lee Vining Creek. Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

It was Wednesday, January 11 at 10:00am. The sky was blue, the wind was calm, and the day before had enveloped the basin in (more…)

Caltrans Hwy 395 rockfall project report #10

Saturday, December 31st, 2016 by Robbie, Restoration Field Technician
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Caltrans-rockfall-update-graphic

Caltrans has released the tenth road report for the Lee Vining Rockfall Safety Project on Highway 395 along Mono Lake just north of Lee Vining.

Lee Vining Rockfall Safety project update #10

capture-10c

(more…)

Caltrans Hwy 395 rockfall project report #9

Saturday, September 3rd, 2016 by Robbie, Restoration Field Technician
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Caltrans-rockfall-update-graphic

Caltrans has released the ninth road report for the Lee Vining Rockfall Safety Project on Highway 395 along Mono Lake just north of Lee Vining.

Lee Vining Rockfall Safety project update #9

Capture 9a

(more…)

New Mono Lake Committee monitoring programs for best management

Monday, August 8th, 2016 by Robbie, Restoration Field Technician
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Over the last two years working for the Mono Lake Committee, I have been collecting a variety of hydrologic data in the Mono Basin and it’s been really inspiring to see how this data leads to real and positive changes for Mono Lake. By measuring streamflows, water table depths, and most recently water temperatures, the Committee is able to use scientific evidence to suggest management actions.

Mono Lake Intern Gabby measuring streamflow on Mill Creek. Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

Last summer was the first year of our Grant Lake Reservoir monitoring program, which measured temperature and dissolved oxygen throughout the water column at key (more…)

Caltrans Hwy 395 rockfall project report #8

Saturday, July 2nd, 2016 by Robbie, Restoration Field Technician
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Caltrans-rockfall-update-graphic

Caltrans has released the eighth road report for the Lee Vining Rockfall Safety Project on Highway 395 along Mono Lake just north of Lee Vining.

Lee Vining Rockfall Safety project update #8

Capture 8a (more…)

Native plant conditions at Mill Creek improve

Monday, May 23rd, 2016 by Robbie, Restoration Field Technician
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On May 18, 2015 I wanted to assess the types and quantities of invasive plants that were present at Mill Creek. Melilotus albus (sweet clover) was quickly identified as the most prolific and abundant invasive plant species present along Mill Creek, which I documented with GPS points and photos. With the help of volunteers and school groups, we were able to remove over 730 pounds of sweet clover from Mill Creek in 2015 from mid-June to mid-August by manually pulling and clipping the invasive plants. Now in 2016 the difference is noticeable.

Image on the left shows an island in Mill Creek totally dominated by invasive Sweet Clover on May 18th, 2015. The image on the right shows the same island on May 13th, 2016 with only a small patch of Sweet Clover in the center of the island; the rest of the vegetation consists of native clovers, moss, and willow saplings.

Image on the left shows an island in Mill Creek totally dominated by invasive sweet clover on May 18, 2015. The image on the right shows the same island on May 13, 2016 with only a small patch of sweet clover in the center of the island; the rest of the vegetation consists of native clovers, moss, grass, and willow saplings. Photos by Robbie Di Paolo.

Areas of Mill Creek where we focused sweet clover removal efforts in 2015 are now showing native plants retaking the prized riparian habitat in 2016 (as demonstrated by the photo above), which is exactly what we want to be seeing.

Unfortunately, we can’t take all the credit. Seasonal variation has a big impact on what plants dominate a landscape year to year and compared to the last three years, we had much more snow this year. That snow probably helped a lot with inhibiting sweet clover growth and development. But I believe with continued efforts, we are giving the native plants a chance to secure their place along Mill Creek for years to come.

Special thanks to outdoor clothing company Patagonia Inc. for their support of the Mono Lake Committee’s restoration stewardship program.

Great article about Mono Lake and the drought

Saturday, May 7th, 2016 by Robbie, Restoration Field Technician
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Journalist Jane Braxton Little recently wrote a comprehensive article about Mono Lake—we recommend giving it a read. She does a great job of capturing where Mono Lake stands today in the face of California’s historic drought. Click the link to read the article Mono Lake Facing Another Crisis.

Mono Lake tufa towers are seen Monday, Nov. 15, 2004, near Lee Vining, Calif. The ancient towers, composed of calcium carbonate, were formed underwater when fresh water springs mixed with minerals in the lakewater, and became visible when lake water receded over the past 60 years due to water diversion to Los Angeles. Now, residents and the U.S. Forest Service say the Mono Lake protections are imperiled by a plan to subdivide 120 acres for luxury homes on the lake's western shore. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Photo of Pirate Ship Tufa at South Tufa from the article “Mono Lake Facing Another Crisis.” Photo by Ben Margot, Associated Press.

Invasive plants at Mill Creek inspire stewardship

Friday, April 22nd, 2016 by Robbie, Restoration Field Technician
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It’s the early afternoon and I’m standing in Mill Creek on July 30, 2015. The sun is warm when you stand in its rays and the cool softly flowing water is refreshing and welcomed. Standing still I can see bees and butterflies dancing among violet pink, periwinkle blue, and bright yellow wildflowers. It’s hard to believe that two months ago, this particular stretch of Mill Creek was almost entirely dominated by invasive white sweet clover (Melilotus albus).

Wildflowers along Mill Creek. Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

Wildflowers along Mill Creek. Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

White sweet clover plants can live for 2–3 years before casting thousands of seeds and dying. The seeds are hard and light (ideal for stream transportation) and have been shown (more…)

The Mono Lake shrimp are back!

Sunday, April 17th, 2016 by Robbie, Restoration Field Technician
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Brine shrimp (Artemia monica) have emerged from the bottom of Mono Lake and they’re already growing fast! Come check them out along the shores of Mono Lake or in our aquarium at the Mono Lake Committee Information Center & Bookstore (open seven days a week). Enjoy the algae while you can little guys, humans aren’t the only migratory species that’s excited about your arrival….

Artemia monica swirling around bubbling tufa in the MLC's aquarium. Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

Artemia monica swirling around bubbling tufa in the Mono Lake Committee’s aquarium. Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

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