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The Mono-logue - Part 30

The Mono Basin’s wettest July since 1965

July 16th, 2015 by Greg, Information & Restoration Specialist
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At the Cain Ranch weather station, five miles south of Lee Vining, as of July 13, 1.57 inches of rain had fallen in July. That makes this month already the second-wettest July on record after the 1.98 inches of rain in July 1965. Records at this location began in 1931. Rain fell on all but two days between July 1 and 10, and while it has been dry there since July 10, it still has been raining in other parts of the Mono Basin almost every day.

The wet July continues the wet May-June centered on Mono County. This map from the Western Regional Climate Center shows April-June precipitation in percent of average.

This wet July continues the wet May–June centered on Mono County. This map from the Western Regional Climate Center shows April–June precipitation in percent of average.

Lee Vining Creek above the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (DWP) diversion dam experienced its peak flow of about 124 cubic feet per second on July 11, from rain and melting fresh snow. Below the dam, the minimum flow is being released, and the floodwaters are being diverted to Grant Lake Reservoir, which has been slowly rising since May.

Aside from brief floods due to thunderstorms, the Mono Basin’s creeks are dropping to the very low levels that were otherwise expected this summer. If the thunderstorms stop, we will start seeing new low flow records later this month, especially in watersheds without glaciers, such as Walker Creek. The April–September snowmelt runoff forecast issued by DWP in May predicted 19% of average runoff, with a lower bound of 7% and an upper bound of 32%. Nineteen percent is less than half of the runoff measured in 1977, the driest year on record; 32% is still much drier than the driest year on record. Thanks to the recent wet weather, Mono Basin runoff is on track to reach 32%.

Seminar spotlight: Introduction to High Country Plants & Habitats

July 15th, 2015 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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It’s one of the worst droughts on record, so that means there aren’t any flowers in the Mono Basin this year, right? Wrong!

Caption caption. Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

Species of paintbrush are blooming brightly at many Mono Basin elevations, from riparian corridors where interns measure streamflow to alpine meadows. Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

It’s one of the best wildflower years in the Eastern Sierra, thanks to the above-average precipitation we’ve received in May, June, and so far in July. The flowers are responding enthusiastically, so don’t miss the Introduction to High Country Plants & Habitats field seminar, scheduled for the peak of the summer bloom. Plants, animals, insects, geology, and weather all interact quickly during the short growing season, and this seminar is a guide to it all.

Introduction to High Country Plants & Habitats • July 31–August 2 • $165 per person/$150 for members • sign up here … more »

Mono Lake Committee divests from fossil fuels

July 13th, 2015 by Geoff, Executive Director
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The Mono Lake Committee has now fully divested from fossil fuels. Photo by Arya Degenhardt.

The Mono Lake Committee has now fully divested from fossil fuels. Photo by Arya Degenhardt.

A worldwide fossil fuel divestment movement has begun involving governments, educational institutions, foundations, faith-based groups, individuals, and non-profit organizations. Participants range from Stanford University to the City of Seattle to the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation to Britain’s Prince Charles. We’re pleased to inform members that the Mono Lake Committee is part of the movement.

As inspirational climate leader and Mono Lake Committee member Bill McKibben says, divestment is a simple, direct action that counters “the scary new math of climate change.”

The Committee’s savings account hardly rivals those of big institutions. But similar to our solar panel installation several years ago, we need to continue to do our part to counter carbon pollution—an issue close to home as we grapple with the effects of a changing climate at Mono Lake.

While coal, gas, and oil companies were never a special focus in the Committee’s investments, they were often present in the diversified funds we used to safeguard endowment gifts, member bequests, and other savings. But no longer. The Mono Lake Committee has now fully divested from fossil fuels.

This post was also published as an article in the Summer 2015 Mono Lake Newsletter.

July, the new January?

July 11th, 2015 by Bartshé, Education Director
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After four years of drought in California snow has become a rare sight in the Sierra Nevada, but in July?! Last week an upper-level low-pressure system moved westward across California and generated thunderstorms, rain, hail, and a local dose of real snow to the Tioga Pass region, especially in the Lee Vining Creek headwaters. The area around Saddlebag Lake, in particular, received a solid coating of snow, estimated between 6-10″ in the early morning hours of July 9. The morning was reminiscent of January, except for highlights of bright green vegetation struggling through an unfamiliar white blanket. With a strong El Nino building in the Pacific, might this be a harbinger of the winter ahead? California, the Sierra Nevada, and Mono Lake are greatly in need of anything close to a normal snowpack, but as this past week illustrates, there is no normal with precipitation in California, just variability.

Mt. Dana, above Tioga Pass on July 9, 2015.

Mt. Dana, above Tioga Pass on July 9, 2015.

New snow above Saddlebag Lake

Mt. Excelsior and ridge in fresh snow behind Saddlebag Lake, July 9, 2015.

Saddlebag Lake and the Tioga Ridge

Saddlebag Lake, Shepherd Crest (upper-left) and the Tioga Ridge on July 9, 2015. Note heavy snow near the ridge and Dore Pass (from upper-middle to upper- right). Photo by Bartshe Miller.

Penstemon newberryi

Mountain Pride, Penstemon newberryi, in fresh snow, July 9, 2015. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

Caltrans Hwy 395 rockfall project report #6

July 10th, 2015 by Robbie, Project Specialist
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Caltrans-rockfall-update-graphic

Caltrans has released the sixth road report for the Lee Vining Rockfall Safety Project on Highway 395 along Mono Lake just north of Lee Vining.

Lee Vining Rockfall Safety project update #6


Capture 6aCapture 6c
Capture 6 b

Updates are also posted regularly on Twitter and Facebook.
Click here for all project updates and background.
Text from the official update is below.

Caltrans-rockfall-update-graphic … more »

A toast to Randy Arnold and 25 Barefoot years at Mono Lake

July 10th, 2015 by Arya, Communications Director
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Randy Arnold. Photo by Arya Degenhardt.

Randy Arnold, Barefoot Wine ambassador and Mono Lake champion. Photo by Arya Degenhardt.

In spring 2003, the Mono Lake Committee got an intern application that stood out—Randy Arnold, 13-year ambassador for Barefoot Winery and 20-year Mono Lake Committee volunteer and member, wanted to be the Birding Intern. We were probably as surprised as his employers—Barefoot Wine founders Bonnie Harvey and Michael Houlihan, who had just given their #1 employee a sabbatical to follow his dream of working for Mono Lake.

Fast-forward to 2015 and Randy is celebrating his 25th anniversary with Barefoot. He continues to make good on the promise he made at age 14 (when he first visited Mono Lake on his way to 4-H summer camp) to return to the Eastern Sierra as often as possible. … more »

Volunteer opp: remove invasive plants on Mill Creek

July 9th, 2015 by Matt, Mono Lake Intern
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An important piece of the Mono Lake Committee’s mission is to restore Mono Lake’s tributary streams and their riparian (streamside) habitats. These environments provide a lush area for many of the native plants of the Mono Basin to grow and flourish. Since the streams were damaged by years of excessive water diversions, they are in the process of recovering, and non-native invasive plants can sometimes encroach, outcompete the native vegetation, and slow the restoration process.

invasives - native cow clower - RDi IMG_0569

Native cow clover recolonizing riparian habitat along Mill Creek. Photo by Robert Di Paolo.

This summer the Mono Lake Committee is continues to focus on removing invasive plants along Mill Creek, the third largest tributary to Mono Lake located in the north Mono Basin. White sweet clover is the main target as this fast-growing weed  quickly dominates sections of Mill Creek and poses the greatest threat to native plants. Already this summer we have removed over 300 pounds of invasive white sweet clover and the native flowers and plants are noticeably establishing in the previously invaded habitat, which is both encouraging and beautiful to witness.

invasives 2014-08-04 high country plants seminar RD_1639

Botanist Ann Howald will join the restoration crew on July 21st to talk about rare plants and conservation issues. Photo by Robert Di Paolo.

Come join us this July on Tuesday the 14th and Tuesday the 21st to see for yourself and to help keep this important habitat healthy, beautiful, and diverse. On the 21st we will be accompanied by guest naturalist Ann Howald, a botanist who specializes in rare plants and conservation issues and who has lead the High Country Plant Field Seminar for the Mono Lake Committee for over a decade. She has an amazing wealth of knowledge of the Sierra Nevada and this will be a rare chance to pick her brain.

To join us: meet at 8:30 am at the Mono Lake Committee Information Center & Bookstore,  located on the corner of Highway 395 and Third Street in Lee Vining. If you are interested in volunteering for either of the restoration events this July or if you have any questions about July or August events, please contact Robbie Di Paolo at (760) 647-6386 x122.

invasives 2015-07-01 OEC invasive activity MB_1666

Outdoor Education Center participants, Pacoima Beautiful, after a day of invasive plant removal. Photo by Melissa Boyd.

Special thanks to the California State Parks Foundation for their support of the Mono Lake Volunteer program this year. Special thanks to outdoor clothing company Patagonia Inc. for their support of the Mono Lake Committee’s restoration stewardship program.

Drought response in the LA–Mono Lake watershed

July 7th, 2015 by Geoff, Executive Director
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The word of the day, week, month, and year in Southern California water (as with all of California) is “drought.” How bad will it be? How warm will it be? How can Governor Jerry Brown’s 25% water use reduction be implemented? What about next year?

South Tufa, Negit and Paoha Islands, and the Bodie Hills beyond, after a spring storm. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

South Tufa, Negit and Paoha Islands, and the Bodie Hills beyond, after a spring storm. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

Los Angeles and Mono Lake are two ends of a watershed, connected by the Los Angeles Aqueduct. The effects of the drought on Los Angeles—and the response plans—are critical to Mono Lake, especially in this dry year as lower water exports kick in to slow the falling level of Mono Lake. The good news is that LA is already working on achieving an aggressive set of … more »

The Mono Basin’s top ten June birds

July 4th, 2015 by Sandra, Birding Intern
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The month of June has flown and it’s time to unveil the top ten bird encounters; birds seen within a half-hour driving radius of the Mono Lake Committee headquarters. It was a great month enhanced by the seasonal hatching and fledging young and by sightings at the 14th annual Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua held June 19–21.

A Mountain Bluebird with food for its hungry nestlings.  Photo by Erv Nichols.

A Mountain Bluebird with food for its hungry nestlings. Photo by Erv Nichols.

1. Northern Saw-whet Owl—a cavity nest with several owlets was discovered in the Obsidian Dome area during the Bird Chautauqua
2. Mountain Bluebirds—nesting behind the gas station at south entrance to June Lake Loop … more »

Extreme precipitation amidst extreme drought

July 3rd, 2015 by Greg, Information & Restoration Specialist
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On the evening of July 1st, rain falling on Mono Lake during thunderstorms could be heard two miles away. Photo by Geoff McQuilkin.

On the evening of July 1st, rain falling on Mono Lake during thunderstorms could be heard two miles away. Photo by Geoff McQuilkin.

The Mono Basin is a land of extremes, and this year’s weather is no exception. Temperatures since January are the warmest on record. October–March precipitation in Lee Vining was the lowest on record. April–September precipitation, on the other hand, already is the highest on record—and we are only halfway through that time period! This water year (October 1, 2014–September 30, 2015) is the first time Apr–Sept precipitation has exceeded Oct–Mar. This reversal of the warm and cold season Mediterranean precipitation patterns has allowed invasive plants like cheatgrass to … more »

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