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The Mono-logue » Stream Restoration

‘Stream Restoration’ Category

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…)

The Mono Lake Committee 2017 Annual Report

Saturday, November 25th, 2017 by Arya, Communications Director
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Each year printed copies of the Mono Lake Committee Annual Report are sent out to Defense Trust level members and Guardians of the Lake monthly-giving club members, but it is has information that is important to members at all giving levels, friends, anyone who is curious, and the general public. So without further ado, click here to see the Mono Lake Committee 2017 Annual Report.

Did you get a yearbook in high school? The Annual Report feels a little bit like the grown-up version of getting the yearbook … (more…)

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…)

Saddlebag Lake Reservoir spills

Tuesday, August 8th, 2017 by Greg, Information & Restoration Specialist
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Water courses down the Saddlebag Lake Reservoir spillway, possibly for the first time ever. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

For the first time since at least as far back as 1983, Saddlebag Lake Reservoir on Lee Vining Creek is spilling. This is a rare event—and possibly a first—for the highest lake you can drive to in California.

Saddlebag Dam, at 10,090′ elevation, was built in 1921 to enlarge an existing alpine lake for hydropower generation purposes. The dam was raised and a spillway was added in 1925. The reservoir is oversized compared to the volume of water produced in its watershed, and given the agreement between Southern California Edison (SCE) and the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (DWP), which requires it to be very low every spring. It is unclear if it has ever spilled before now. Last week it was inches away from its spillway, at the end of the day on Monday it was very full at 9,400 acre-feet of water, and on Tuesday it spilled! (more…)

Help remove invasive plants in the Mono Basin

Sunday, July 30th, 2017 by Ava, Mono Lake Intern
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As July winds down and August approaches, we find ourselves faced with increasing quantities of a prolific invasive plant species in the Mono Basin. Dense patches of sweet white clover can be seen along streambeds, roadsides, edges of parking lots, and areas where soil has recently been disrupted, which softens the ground for the opportunistic and tenacious seeds. Unseen below the ground, its roots begin the process of nitrogen fixation, changing the chemical properties of the soil. Removing invasive plant species has been part of an ongoing restoration process to clear the ground so that native species may flourish.

Volunteers helping remove white sweet clover and other invasive plants along Mill Creek. Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

The Mono Lake Committee has been involved in removal projects for several years to reduce the amount of sweet white clover (Melilotus albus) growing in the Mono Basin. These efforts often entail taking groups of interns, volunteers, visiting students from the Outdoor Education Center, and interested community members into the field for some hands-on learning.

For those who are in town and willing to help (more…)

Record runoff reaches the Rush Creek delta

Sunday, June 25th, 2017 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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Photo by Bartshe Miller.

Unlike Mono Lake’s other tributaries, Rush Creek hasn’t experienced high restorative flows of water since the decision was made to restore the creeks in the mid-1990s. Until this year! Rush has been receiving its highest flows in 50 years, near and exceeding a volume of 800 cubic feet per second. The work that all this water is doing is visible at the delta, where the creek meets Mono Lake in a plume of fresh, turbid water. The foreground of the photo above is a laminar flow of fresh water where sediment drops out and builds the delta habitat.

Check back during this runoff season for more stream restoration updates here on the Mono-logue—you can also find them all by clicking on the “2017 runoff” tag, below.

Lee Vining Creek Trail closes after record runoff

Friday, June 23rd, 2017 by Andrew, Digital Engagement Coordinator
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Over the past couple of years, I’ve walked the Lee Vining Creek trail more times than I can count. In the fall, I enjoy the golden aspens along the calm stream. In winter, I’ve trekked across the trail in deep snow on skis and on foot, marveling at the beauty and silence of that quiet season. Spring means the emergence of wildflowers and the beginning of the runoff season, while in summer all the plants burst back to life, lizards dart across the trail again, birds fly above, and the creek is raging as the runoff reaches its peak.

Lee Vining Creek’s braided channels are full and rushing with water during this peak runoff season. Unfortunately, the Lee Vining Creek Trail has been washed out and is closed temporarily. Photo by Andrew Youssef.

Walking the trail yesterday, this trail I have followed numerous times before, I felt transported to an entirely new place. (more…)

Seven times more water in the snowpack than this time last year

Wednesday, June 14th, 2017 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

The ASO survey data arrived from the June 5 flight, and in a nutshell? There’s A LOT of water still contained up in the snowpack. The data for the Rush Creek watershed indicates that 64% of the April 1st snowpack remains, containing about 78,000 acre-feet of water. At this time last year—a drought year—only about 10,500 acre-feet of water was left in the meager Rush Creek snowpack. This year at the start of June there’s over seven times more water up in the snowpack, much of which will melt and flow into Mono Lake!

Check back during this runoff season for more stream restoration updates here on the Mono-logue—you can also find them all by clicking on the “2017 runoff” tag, below.

Rush Creek’s Channel 8 is full of water

Monday, June 12th, 2017 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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Photo by Bartshe Miller.

The Mono Lake Committee’s 2017 seasonal staff have arrived and are getting two weeks of training about all things Mono Lake. On Friday, June 9 they were in the field with Executive Director Geoff and Education Director Bartshe, checking out the streams in the south part of the basin: Lee Vining, Parker, Walker, and Rush creeks.

Here they are at a section of lower Rush Creek known as “Channel 8.” In most years, the channel right behind where the staff are standing is dry. But this year there’s enough water to fill the channel from bank to bank, rejuvenating the water table, depositing new sediment, spreading seeds, and bringing new life back to the Rush Creek bottomlands.

Check back during this runoff season for more stream restoration updates here on the Mono-logue—you can also find them all by clicking on the “2017 runoff” tag, below.

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