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The Mono-logue » Stream Restoration

‘Stream Restoration’ Category

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.

Over 800 cfs of water in lower Rush Creek, on its way to Mono Lake

Sunday, June 11th, 2017 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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Photo by Bartshe Miller.

Wednesday afternoon (June 7) at the Rush Creek culvert on Test Station Road: On this hot afternoon the creek was running at about 820 cubic feet per second when Education Director Bartshe Miller took the UC Santa Cruz Natural History Field Quarter class on a tour of the Mono Basin’s complex plumbing. It’s great to see the water so brown and turbid—that means sediments are getting moved downstream toward the Rush Creek delta, where they will get deposited, improving the delta habitat for birds and animals.

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.

Flooded meadows in Lee Vining Canyon

Saturday, June 10th, 2017 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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Photo courtesy of Sally Miller.

Upper Lee Vining Creek has been flooding the meadows in Lee Vining Canyon for a few weeks, as water flowing at volumes between 300 and 500 cubic feet per second cascades from the reservoirs and melting snow near Tioga Pass. The creek alternates between deceptively tranquil flat water in the meadows and roaring rapids in the rocky sections of the canyon, bringing sediment and beneficial flooding to lower Lee Vining Creek, the creek delta, and eventually 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.

Grant Lake Reservoir is spilling: What it means for Rush Creek

Friday, June 9th, 2017 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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Grant Lake Reservoir has been spilling since last Wednesday, May 31, for the first time since 2011. Wish you could see it for yourself? You can! Here’s a timelapse of the spill in action:

After five years of drought it has been a joy to see Grant re-filling this spring, culminating with the spillway’s torrent of water cascading down the concrete ramp to join Rush Creek.

Water reaches Rush Creek from Grant in two ways. (more…)

An extreme runoff year from the top down

Friday, May 26th, 2017 by Bartshé, Education Director
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Tioga Pass is closed, but there is a lot activity in the Mono Basin as the peak runoff season is soon to arrive. Streamflows will soon reach levels not seen in decades as 206% of average runoff—the May 1 forecast—comes rushing down in the Mono Basin.

The May 1, 2017 runoff forecast is 206% of normal for the Mono Basin.

(Click to enlarge.) A 180-degree view from Mono Lake to Lundy Canyon and points south from a local peak on May 24, 2017. Photo by Geoff McQuilkin.

This much water is an inspiration to witness, especially after five years of brutal drought conditions. Water is moving down some drainages and steep canyons that rarely, if ever, transport water during the runoff season. Creeks are already flowing at dangerously high levels and attempting to cross Mono Basin streams along fallen logs or other unusual crossing sites during peak flows could be a life or death decision—use extreme caution.

This is a benchmark year, and there is a lot of work for Mono Lake Committee staff documenting stream flows, coordinating critical information with Los Angeles Department of Water & Power, Southern California Edison, stream scientists, and other authorities to make sure that everyone can anticipate the challenges and changes ahead for Mono Lake and its tributary streams. Stay tuned—we plan on sharing as much information and as many images as possible here on the Mono-logue, on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We have not forgotten the drought years, but forgive us if we temporarily revel in amnesia.

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