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‘Mono Lake Newsletter’ Category

Reflections on 40 years: A current look at the Mono Lake Committee

Thursday, May 31st, 2018 by Sally, Board of Directors
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Editor’s note: To celebrate the Mono Lake Committee’s 40th anniversary in the Newsletter, Sally Gaines, co-founder and Board Chair, is writing a series of reflections on the past, present, and future of the organization.

Today the Mono Lake Committee is widely respected as a model environmental group. I attribute this to an incredible staff, now numbering 15, as well as 11 seasonal staff, plus a cohesive Board of Directors. The policy issues grow ever more complex, and drag on for years, if not decades. The longevity of our staff means we are forever reeducating new bureaucratic staff we work with.

Several bequests have stabilized our financial picture, enabling us to improve the front of our headquarters, still and forever in Lee Vining. We continue to have excellent information for visitors, a fitting selection of books, clothing, and gifts, as well as staff offices in back. We are never changing our name either. Photo by Arya Harp.

Scientific research continues; some is old: California Gulls, Eared Grebes, lake level, salinity, stream restoration. Newer topics (more…)

Summer 2018 Mono Lake Newsletter now online

Wednesday, May 30th, 2018 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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It’s the human condition to operate with one foot in the future and one in the past, right? Here at the Mono Lake Committee we are certainly human—building on the past, with eyes trained on the future.

This year—our 40th anniversary—invites a nod to the past. It’s a chance to look back at the organization’s strong foundation laid by good humans like Sally Gaines, the late Genny Smith, and so many others who set us on the course that led to landmark successes that continue to protect the Mono Basin today.

This Newsletter is a snapshot of what we’re doing right now for Mono Lake. We’re squeezing a record number of groups into this year’s Outdoor Education Center season. We’re determining the kind of restoration flows the streams should receive based on snowpack and runoff data. (more…)

Mill Creek return ditch passes test: Possible solution to returning diverted water back to the creek

Thursday, April 5th, 2018 by Lisa, Eastern Sierra Policy Director
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In an effort to explore ways to return water to Mill Creek and therefore satisfy its legal obligations, Southern California Edison (SCE) released water from the Lundy hydroelectric plant into the Mill Creek return ditch last September, successfully returning water to the creek (see Fall 2017 Mono Lake Newsletter). The return ditch has been part of the hydropower system for a century. SCE was motivated to do this flow test because of the languishing problem of how to comply with Mill Creek water rights.

The Mill Creek return ditch carried flows of up to 16 cubic feet per second during a 61-day test last fall, returning water to the creek consistent with long-established water rights. Photo by Elin Ljung.

Prior to releasing water into the ditch, SCE evaluated the system and did routine maintenance to stabilize the earthen banks. SCE staff were on site during (more…)

Diverse watchdog duties keep the Mono Lake Committee busy

Wednesday, April 4th, 2018 by Geoff, Executive Director
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The Mono Lake Committee is serious about protecting and restoring Mono Lake, its tributary streams, and surrounding lands. That means being on constant alert as a watchdog, and recent months have provided some interesting examples of what that requires.

The Committee keeps a close eye on daily Mono Basin streamflows at multiple locations, such as the recovering Rush Creek bottomlands. Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

Sometimes the Committee chases issues that have lengthy histories and require continuous pressure to move toward resolution—the 2013 Stream Restoration Agreement with the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (DWP) is one example. Years of work (more…)

Winter & Spring 2018 Mono Lake Newsletter now online

Monday, March 12th, 2018 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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The theme of this issue of the Mono Lake Newsletter is vigilance. Really, it has run through every Newsletter, starting 40 years ago with a group of sharp-eyed, shaggy biologists who took note of what was happening to Mono Lake. Ever since those early days, we’ve kept watch.

You’ll see our continued vigilance in the pages that follow—we noticed a leaking stream, an unusual development proposal, a new threat to the California Gulls, and a flow violation at Rush Creek. We watched the Mill Creek return ditch flow test carefully. We visit the streams regularly, we keep an eye on daily streamflow reports, and we scrutinize the lake level.

We look around, and we look ahead. As this winter seems (more…)

35th year for California Gull study: Research documents changes in gull population and nesting habitat

Thursday, March 8th, 2018 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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In 2017 Point Blue Conservation Science continued its Mono Lake California Gull monitoring study with the goal of better understanding how the gulls respond to changes in lake conditions over time. Indeed, 2017 was a year of change for both the gulls and this critical long-term study, which is supported by the Mono Lake Committee (read the full report online here).

Approximately 27,000 California Gulls nested on Mono Lake’s islets in 2017, well below the 35-year average of 46,000 nesting adults. Photo courtesy of Kristie Nelson.

Following two years of testing, the nesting gull counts were done using aerial photography instead of the previous method of ground counts. Results indicate that counting nesting gulls from the aerial photographs matched ground count tallies by 96%, and the new survey method is less disruptive to the gulls.

Lowest-ever number of nesting gulls

The population of nesting California Gulls (Larus californicus) in 2017 was the lowest ever recorded at (more…)

Reflections on 40 years: A trip in the way-back machine to the early Mono Lake Committee

Wednesday, March 7th, 2018 by Sally, Board of Directors
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Half a lifetime for a person, 40 years is negligible for a 760,000-year-old lake. As an old timer (or the “OG”—Original Gangster—as I was recently called by a young staff member), here’s my brief summary of the first four decades of the Mono Lake Committee—our story, as I will someday tell my grandkids.

In the 1970s, only a handful of sightseers, residents, and birdwatchers understood that Mono Lake was declining fast due to excessive creek diversions. In 1976, a dozen undergraduates inventoried the basin to describe a simple but very productive ecosystem that would be lost if it dried up, which it was on track to do.

Mono Lake Committee archive photo.

So our group of shaggy biologists organized a non-profit to use legal, legislative, and educational means specifically to help Mono Lake. Love of the lake overcame our hesitation of things unfamiliar. Why else would we be on the 40th floor of a San Francisco law office building trying to understand the finer points of 501(c)(3) versus 501(c)(4) non-profits in our best no-holes jeans? (more…)

Shop for Mono Lake this holiday season

Thursday, November 9th, 2017 by Lily, Information Center & Bookstore Manager
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The holiday season is upon us! It’s time to start making your lists—and checking them twice. There are many great gifts to choose from in the Mono Lake Committee’s online bookstore, and as with all purchases made from the Committee, 100% of profits go towards protection, restoration, and education programs here at Mono Lake!


We invite you to peruse our online store and 2017 Fall Catalog to help you start checking gifts off your list. Purchases can be made directly online, or if you would like to call with your order you can phone (760) 647-6595 Monday through Friday 9:00am–5:00pm to be assisted by one of our staff “elves.”

Don’t see that perfect gift in our online store or catalog? Don’t fret, even items purchased through the Amazon Associates program can help support our work here at Mono Lake. Just make sure to follow this link to have 5% of your purchase donated to the Mono Lake Committee.

Make sure to check back here, on the Mono-logue, for access to special offers throughout the holiday season.

Huge runoff raises Mono Lake, reshapes streams

Saturday, October 21st, 2017 by Geoff, Executive Director
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Last year we were drought weary and went into winter with low expectations. Those expectations were proven wrong—very wrong. 2017 became the winter of storm after storm after storm that led to a spring and summer of genuine awe at the depth of the snowpack and magnitude of the runoff.

During peak flow season Mono Lake Committee staff and hydrology consultants spent days out along the streams, tracking—and reveling in—the incredible amounts of water. Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

It is hard to fathom the scale of what happened. In three weeks in January, scientists note, more than the equivalent of the entire average annual flow of the Colorado River fell as snow onto the Sierra Nevada. And it didn’t stop there. By April the Mono Basin watershed had seen snowfall equivalent to four drought winters—2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015—all stacked on top of each other.

When longer days and warmer temperatures arrived, the snow began to melt and a remarkable runoff season began. The Mono Basin runoff forecast (more…)

Fall 2017 Mono Lake Newsletter now online

Saturday, October 14th, 2017 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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Just add water.

Sometimes I think of the Mono Basin as ready-made pancake mix—all you have to do is add water.

The Mono Lake Committee’s 16,000 members have been working on perfecting the mix since 1978. We envisioned a future with a healthy Mono Lake and streams, we fought for that future all the way to the California Supreme Court, worked with the State Water Board to set in place the rules that will make a healthy future a reality, and made sure the protections didn’t exist only on paper. Flour, baking soda, salt, sugar… And then, this year, we got to add the water!

So much water that (more…)

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The Mono Lake Committee is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization.