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Road conditions update: Highway 158 and Highway 120 East opening today

Friday, April 14th, 2017 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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According to the latest press release from Caltrans, Highway 158, the June Lake Loop, and Highway 120 East toward Benton are scheduled to open for the season today at noon and 2:00pm, respectively.

It will probably be months yet before Highway 120 West (Tioga Pass) is open, but snow removal equipment is now in place and starting to work on lower sections of the highway a few miles west of the junction with Highway 395. The snowpack is estimated to be between 8 to 15 feet on the highway, with up to 50-foot snowdrifts in some locations. There is no estimated opening date.

A Caltrans snowblower clearing snow below an avalanche chute on Tioga Pass (Highway 120 West) on April 4, 2017. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

The road to Bodie State Historic Park, Highway 270, remains closed at the request of State Park personnel. The park itself remains closed to visitors after a swarm of earthquakes last December damaged some of Bodie’s buildings and its water system.

North of the Mono Basin, there is no estimated opening date for Highway 108 (Sonora Pass) or Highway 89 (Monitor Pass), though snow removal from the east has begun on both roads. The snowpack on the Sonora Pass road is estimated to be 5 to 12, and 5 feet on the Monitor Pass road.

Charting weather extremes and understanding climate change impacts

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017 by Bartshé, Education Director
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A wet winter has brought needed relief to a drought-stricken Mono Lake. However, a glimpse at Lee Vining weather data reveals that predictions about climate change in California and the Sierra Nevada are becoming real.

January 2017 set a record for wettest month in Lee Vining’s weather data history: 11.23 inches of precipitation. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

Warming temperatures, along with more extreme and less-frequent precipitation, are reflected in our local weather. The record-setting drought of the last five years still casts a shadow across the Mono Basin. Multi-year impacts to the watershed and ecosystem have accumulated due to record high temperatures, remarkably low runoff, and wildfires. As climate forces further change, monitoring, assessment, and adaptation will be critical to the future restoration and protection of Mono Lake. (more…)

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

Monday, April 10th, 2017 by Robbie, Project Specialist
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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…)

Saving the gulls: The fence is up

Tuesday, April 4th, 2017 by Terry, Membership Assistant
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Last Wednesday my husband and I struck out across the landbridge heading towards Negit Island. Our destination: check out the one-mile-long temporary fence being installed to protect the nesting California Gulls.

Gull researcher Kristie Nelson installs wildlife cameras on the temporary electrified fence that stretches across Mono Lake’s landbridge, protecting nesting California Gulls from coyote predation. Photo by Terry McLaughlin.

Thanks to all the donors who supported a successful #LongLivetheGulls Indiegogo campaign to raise funds to purchase the fence materials. Now the Mono Lake Committee had to meet a lofty goal: The fence had to be installed and fully functional by April 1. (more…)

Mono Lake to stay above critical level

Thursday, March 30th, 2017 by Geoff, Executive Director
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The big water question of this year for Mono Lake—I expected—was going to be the same as 2016: Would Los Angeles be halted from exporting water due to Mono Lake’s low level, or would the already-reduced export allotment continue?

Mono Lake won’t drop below 6377 feet above sea level this year, which means that Los Angeles is allowed to export a total of 4,500 acre-feet of water. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

The rule is well established: When the lake drops below, or is forecasted to drop below, 6377 feet above sea level, water exports must halt. So our action plan was for detailed lake level forecasting and analysis (last year the lake remained a mere two inches above that critical level) and a fair amount of discussion with the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (DWP), to be sure any export cutback happened smoothly. In fact, I visited with the head of DWP’s aqueduct system and water operations in December to talk about this very topic.

But then came January and February, and the weather patterns of the Pacific gave us a rather wonderfully different reality (more…)

The fence to protect Mono Lake’s gulls is funded – thank you!

Tuesday, March 28th, 2017 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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Our Indiegogo campaign ended last night at midnight—102% funded with $15,304! Thank you to all 228 of you who contributed to this campaign. We are grateful that you understood the need for a fence, took the time to visit our campaign, and gave generously to help us reach our goal.

What’s next for the fence?

As we watched your donations come in through Indiegogo we felt confident enough to begin ordering fence materials, and this week the fence will be going up! The mostly sunny, calm (more…)

Reserve your seat at the Andrea Lawrence Award Dinner

Monday, March 27th, 2017 by Lily, Information Center & Bookstore Manager
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Join the Mono Lake Committee in commemorating Andrea Lawrence and her continuing legacy with the presentation of the Andrea Lawrence Award celebrating passionate engagement in community and the land.

This year the award will be presented to author Genny Smith, “The Naturalist Queen of the Eastern Sierra,” who was instrumental in stopping the Trans-Sierra Highway, among many other accomplishments.

Andrea Lawrence Award Dinner

5:30pm on Friday, May 5, 2017
Parallax Restaurant
McCoy Station, Mammoth Mountain Ski Area

Take a beautiful gondola ride up to McCoy Station for an evening of delicious food, inspiring company, and exceptional views as we celebrate Genny Smith. Reserve your tickets with a $75 donation online here, or by calling (760) 647-6595 by Monday, April 17. We hope to see you there!

Your donation to protect Mono Lake’s gulls will be matched

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017 by Andrew, Project Specialist
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If you haven’t yet donated to the Long Live the Gulls campaign, now is the moment—we have only five days left to reach our goal of $15,000. Plus, a generous anonymous donor called yesterday and will be matching all gifts, dollar for dollar, starting today through the end of the fundraiser on March 28, so your contribution will go twice as far!

Thousands of California Gulls flock to Mono Lake each year to nest on the islands, which coyotes can now access by swimming across a narrow channel of water, after five years of drought dropped Mono Lake about seven feet. Please donate to the Long Live the Gulls campaign today to protect the gulls. Photo by Sara Matthews.

Thank you to the 158 donors who have already joined this collective effort to help protect the gulls until Mono Lake rises above the threshold of concern this summer. Thanks to your donations the materials for the temporary electrified fence are now more than 75% funded.

Please donate today to double your impact and protect Mono Lake’s gull colony—one of the largest California Gull colonies in the world—from coyote predation before nesting begins in April. Thank you for your support and long live the gulls!

Sixteenth annual Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017 by Nora, Lead Naturalist Guide
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Get your binoculars ready for the sixteenth annual Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua, coming June 16–18, 2017!

Audubon’s Warbler. Photo by Santiago Escruceria.

We hope you’ll be here to celebrate and support the rich diversity of bird life, the legacy of avian research, and the ongoing conservation efforts in the Eastern Sierra—all while having a darn good time. This year we are offering many new programs and field trips as well as our most popular events from previous Chautauquas. (more…)

Mono Lake likely to rise four feet over the next year

Tuesday, March 21st, 2017 by Greg, Information & Restoration Specialist
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Last week the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (DWP) released its preliminary runoff forecast based on record-breaking March 1st snow surveys: 195% of average runoff for the April 1, 2017 through March 31, 2018 runoff year. This volume of runoff is very similar to 1983, the wettest runoff year on record. Due to the warm storms in January and February, the lower-elevation snowpack below about 9,000 feet above sea level is much lower than in 1983, so we are assuming that record runoff is a high-end scenario. That forecast also assumes median precipitation over the next year.

Based on 1983 as a high end, 1995 as a probable scenario, and 2006 as a lowest possible scenario, we modeled the likely rise in Mono Lake based on those past year inflows and probable reservoir operations this year. The result? A 3.8-foot rise in Mono Lake is likely over the next year. Expected Grant Lake Reservoir operations add about half a foot to our forecast.

A 3.8 foot rise in Mono Lake is likely over the next year. (Click on the graph to enlarge it.) Graph by Greg Reis.

All three scenarios have little or no rise before May and a similar rise in May and June, since snow can only melt so fast, (more…)

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