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The Mono-logue » Seasonal Update

‘Seasonal Update’ Category

Fence post: An update from Mono Lake’s landbridge

Friday, April 21st, 2017 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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The temporary electrified fence protecting Mono Lake’s nesting California Gulls has been up and running for about three weeks now. After a long and snowy winter the gulls’ calls signal spring’s arrival, and it’s gratifying to know that as they build nests and lay eggs out on the islands, they are protected from coyote predation.

Gull researcher Kristie Nelson works on one of the fence sections that extends into Mono Lake. Photo by Geoff McQuilkin.

The fence stretches for about one mile across the landbridge, and is made up of five sections that overlap—an electrified long middle section, two shorter electrified sections at the ends near the water’s edge, and two passive sections at (more…)

Removing snow and rumors along the Tioga Pass Road

Tuesday, April 18th, 2017 by Bartshé, Education Director
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Tioga Pass Road at 8,000' on April 4, 2017.

Snow is minimal below 8,000 feet on the east side of  Highway 120, but snow depth increases exponentially above 8,500 feet. Photo by Bartshé Miller.

As everyone in California knows, it’s been a remarkable year for precipitation. At the highest elevations above Mono Lake in the vicinity of Tioga Pass, we may be facing a snowpack over 200% of average. April 1 snow surveys revealed nearby sites at all-time record snow depth and water content, while other sites, including Tioga Pass itself, fell just short of past record levels. Snow depth in the region likely moved upward with recent April storms, cold temperatures, and generally unsettled spring weather. (more…)

The 2017 Mono Lake Committee Scholarship application is available now!

Saturday, April 15th, 2017 by Gabrielle, Project Specialist
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Each year the Mono Lake Committee supports local students pursuing higher education and displaying a connection to Mono Lake with two $1,000 scholarships. High school seniors living in Mono County with firm plans to attend a 2- or 4-year college within a year of graduation are eligible to apply.

Students are asked to visit Mono Lake and answer the question: Why do places like Mono Lake matter?

Applications can be found here, and the deadline to apply is Friday May 12, 2017 at 5:00pm.

You can find essays written by past recipients here. If you have questions regarding the application or would like to donate to the scholarship fund please contact Gabrielle Renteria by email or by calling (760) 647-6595 x 103.

2016 scholarship recipient Julie Harris with Membership Coordinator Ellen and Executive Director Geoff. Photo by Santiago Escruceria.

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.

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…)

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…)

Spring is springing at Mono Lake

Sunday, March 19th, 2017 by Gabrielle, Project Specialist
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After what feels like an endless winter, signs of spring are starting to pop up all over the Mono Basin. Daytime highs in the mid to high 60’s mean that most of the snow around Mono Lake and in town has melted away. Morning commutes are feeling more and more like the crisp summer mornings I came to love while leading canoe tours and Nora, our Lead Naturalist Guide, has led the way, declaring it officially sandal weather.

We’re not the only ones enjoying the warmer weather; the songs of Red-winged Blackbirds, Cassin’s Finches, and Spotted Towhees can be heard through town. And a quick trip to the lake reveals that California Gulls have already begun to arrive for their summer nesting season.

Red-winged Blackbird. Photo by Nora Livingston.

Although we look forward to the warm and busy summer months ahead, we are excited to see that Mother Nature still has snow to share with Mono Lake. The forecast calls for a storm starting Tuesday and our hopes are high for a few more like it!

As of March 15 the lake is at 6378.2 feet above sea level and with all the snow we got this winter it will only continue to rise. It will be a great season and we cannot wait to share it with you.

Donate now to protect Mono Lake’s gull colony

Friday, March 17th, 2017 by Andrew, Project Specialist
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It’s really starting to feel like spring in the Mono Basin—the days are getting longer, afternoon temperatures are nearing 70°, and we’ve started seeing the first California Gulls return to Mono Lake to nest. Right now, there is only a small, watery barrier separating the California Gull nesting grounds from the mainland, making it just a short swim for coyotes to get to the islands and wreak havoc on the gull colony.

The good news is that plans are advancing for the construction of a temporary fence across the landbridge on Mono Lake’s north shore to block coyote access to the islands until enough snow melts to raise the lake above the threshold of concern later this summer. Thanks to the generosity of 76 donors, we have already funded a significant amount for the fence, but we still need your help. We’ve made the short video above for you to enjoy and share with your friends to encourage them to join this collective effort. You can also watch the full campaign video below or visit the Long Live the Gulls campaign page to donate and learn more. Thank you for your support—we, and the gulls, appreciate it! (more…)

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