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This year’s deep snowpack will raise Mono Lake

Tuesday, May 21st, 2019 by Geoff, Executive Director

Today it is once again possible to see the sky out of the windows at the Mono Lake Committee office—instead of a wall of snow—but the wet and snowy 2018–19 winter will continue to affect Mono Lake and its tributary streams throughout the summer and well into fall.

With 157% of average snowpack by April 1, it was an impressively wet winter in the Mono Basin. Photo by Andrew Youssef.

Storms rolled into the Sierra this past winter and temperatures stayed cold, allowing for a large snow accumulation in Lee Vining and along the shore of Mono Lake. In February one noteworthy storm sequence dropped nearly four feet of snow in town and turned the entire Mono Basin into a snowfield. Another (more…)

Court memorial honors Judge Finney

Friday, May 17th, 2019 by Arya, Communications Director

On the wall at Mono Lake Committee headquarters, quietly perched above the fray, it reads, “People protecting Mono Lake for future generations.” There are many protectors—birders, scientists, students, lawyers … a bright star in that constellation, Terrence Finney passed away in November 2018, but his legacy will forever shine at Mono Lake.

Honored to have been part of hearings in his courtroom: restoration consultant Scott English, hydrogeographer Peter Vorster, and attorney Richard Roos-Collins with a photo (from Storm Over Mono) of Judge Terrence Finney, at the court memorial in January. Photo courtesy of Richard Roos-Collins.

According to the El Dorado County Superior Court, in Judge Finney’s 20 years of service, the Mono Lake case was “the biggest case of his career.” It certainly was vital to the protection of Mono Lake and restoration of the tributary streams.

In 1989 Judge Finney’s courtroom became the epicenter of (more…)

Record attendance at the Wild & Scenic Film Festival

Wednesday, May 15th, 2019 by Joslyn, Project Specialist

The Mono Lake Committee hosted our eighth annual Wild & Scenic Film Festival in Pasadena and Santa Monica this past March.

The Committee’s eighth annual Wild & Scenic Film Festival in LA was a great success. Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

Each year Committee staff migrate to Los Angeles to bring a selection of inspiring films to our friends and members on the southern end of the Los Angeles Aqueduct. This year marked (more…)

Vorster Center tackles critical hydrology questions

Monday, May 6th, 2019 by Geoff, Executive Director

For over 40 years, the Mono Lake Committee has pursued the best scientific understanding of Mono Basin hydrology. Last year we created the Vorster Center for Mono Basin Hydrology (see Fall 2018 Mono Lake Newsletter) to address new questions in an era of climate change and to serve as a hub for data collection, modeling, analysis, forecasting, and real world hydrology applications. The Vorster Center is not a physical space, rather (more…)

Policy notes from the Mono Lake Newsletter

Tuesday, April 30th, 2019 by Mono Lake Committee Staff

Caltrans Lee Vining US 395 Rehab Project

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is developing plans for a new highway project along five miles of Highway 395.

Plans for the Caltrans Rehab Project include significant amenities for the town of Lee Vining, such as upgrading sidewalks and drainage, replacing pavement, and improving safety. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

The project area is between Highway 120 west and Cemetery Road past The Mono Inn (see Fall 2018 Mono Lake Newsletter). The Lee Vining US 395 Rehab Project will replace pavement throughout the project area, improve sidewalks and curbs in Lee Vining, upgrade drainage systems, and improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists.

While the in-town section allows for significant (more…)

A growing problem for California Gulls: Invasive weed rapidly encroaches on nesting habitat

Wednesday, April 24th, 2019 by Bartshé, Eastern Sierra Policy Director

Last century’s water diversions from the Mono Basin greatly changed the ecosystem of Mono Lake, and that legacy continues to test successive generations of California Gulls. A falling lake level, the first emergence of the landbridge in 1979, coyotes crossing to Negit Island, and gulls abandoning their once-secure breeding colony—these were tragic events. California Gulls (Larus californicus) became one of the rallying points for saving Mono Lake, and while the colony suffered, the birds adapted and shifted nesting to the newly-emerged islets adjacent to Negit that provided refuge from coyotes because they were still surrounded by water.

By 2018, Bassia hyssopifolia had spread rapidly on the Negit Islets, significantly reducing California Gull nesting habitat. Photo courtesy of Kristie Nelson.

Challenges stack up

Because of lake level fluctuations the coyote problem never completely went away, and even (more…)

Spring 2019 Mono Lake Committee staff migrations

Wednesday, April 17th, 2019 by Jessica, Office Director

While many Mono Lake Committee staff migrate with the seasons, sightings of senior staff in migration are rare. This year, we have two of these noteworthy migrations afoot.

After 17 years as Eastern Sierra Policy Director, Lisa Cutting is moving into a part-time role as Associate Policy Director. Lisa started with the Committee as an intern in 1999 and quickly developed a deep commitment to the protection of Mono Lake and restoration of the tributary streams. She then (more…)

Winners in the 2018 Free Drawing for Mono Lake

Sunday, April 14th, 2019 by Joslyn, Project Specialist

Thank you to everyone who entered the 2018 Free Drawing—your donations help us protect and restore Mono Lake! Congratulations to the winners, and a huge thank you to the generous businesses and organizations who donated prizes.

Maureen pulls a winning ticket in the 2018 Free Drawing for Mono Lake in the Mono Lake Committee Information Center & Bookstore. Photo by Elin Ljung.

The iPad Mini 4 went to Marta Beryt of Fresno. Mono Basin retreat: Ross & Evelyn Kay Oswald of Glendora. Mammoth & June Mountain ski pass: (more…)

Wading into stream restoration: A conversation with the State Water Board-appointed Stream Scientists

Thursday, April 4th, 2019 by Lisa, Associate Policy Director

The 2017 spring snowmelt runoff was over 200% of average. It was also the single largest peak flow event since the stream restoration ordered by the California State Water Resources Control Board began in 1998 (see Fall 2017 Mono Lake Newsletter).

During the peak of the 2017 record spring runoff, Mono Lake Committee staff and hydrology experts monitored the physical changes happening in Rush Creek. Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

Now, almost two years later, conversations and field observations continue to reflect on what is technically called an “Extreme-Wet” year type, validating the principles adopted by the State Water Board and restoration parties over 20 years ago.

The State Water Board appointed two independent experts, the Stream Scientists, to study Mono Lake’s (more…)

Improving stream restoration and lake monitoring in 2019: Temporary measures sought while license revision slowly advances

Monday, April 1st, 2019 by Geoff, Executive Director

The effort to restore Mono Lake’s tributary streams is poised to reach new successes when the drawn-out process of authorizing new science-based streamflows and associated infrastructure improvements finally concludes.

In 2010 State Water Board-appointed Stream Scientists submitted a report recommending new, more effective flow regimes for Mono Basin streams. Photo courtesy of Robert Vestal.

While that date remains frustratingly uncertain, the Mono Lake Committee is advocating for immediate implementation of currently-feasible restoration measures to take place in 2019 while continuing to push for the rapid completion of the revision of the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power’s (DWP) license to divert water from the Mono Basin.

Why wait?

Twenty years ago the California State Water Resources Control Board charted a scientific study process led by (more…)

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