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Walker Fire travel and road condition resources

August 17th, 2015 by Arya, Communications Director
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Conditions continue to evolve with the Walker Fire just south of Lee Vining. The two main highway arteries in the area, Highway 120 west into Yosemite and Highway 395, may need to be closed at times for fire fighting and safety. If you are traveling in the area, watch conditions carefully and plan ahead. We have gathered the resources we are using to get up-to-date information:

We will post major #walkerfire updates on:

Fire crews are based in Lee Vining and are working hard to get this fire under control, please help them be safe out there!

The good news is that you can still visit Mono Lake! Smoke conditions are variable around the Mono Basin, and continue to change as winds shift, so use your good judgement…. Places like South Tufa, the Old Marina, and County Park are easy access points to the lake, tufa towers, birds and wildlife, and interpretive activities, and these places are open to the public. For more information on where to go and what to do, you can always stop by the Mono Lake Committee Information Center & Bookstore in Lee Vining and our helpful staff can help you get where you want to go.

Walker Fire update: Highway 120 (Tioga Pass road) and Highway 395 affected

August 17th, 2015 by Bartshé, Education Director
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The Tioga Pass Road, Highway 120 west into Yosemite National Park / Tuolumne Meadows, is currently closed. Campgrounds remain closed in the lower canyon as firefighting efforts on the Walker Fire continue. There is also a threat to Highway 395, with anticipated closure this afternoon, so be sure to check the latest road conditions before traveling.

The Walker Fire on August 16 at 1:00pm, looking more subdued compared to the smoke and flames the day before.

The Walker Fire on August 16 at 1:00pm. The situation looks more subdued compared to the visible smoke and flames the day before. Well done fire and air crews! Photo by Bartshe Miller.

Walker Fire 7% contained

August 16th, 2015 by Bartshé, Education Director
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Fire crews worked overnight to stop the Walker Fire spreading east to Highway 395 and north toward Highway 120. The fire is currently 7% contained, and more fire activity is expected today. Lee Vining is currently under a precautionary notice for potential evacuation in case fire activity spreads. Highway 120 west remains closed from Highway 395 to the Blue Slide (just east of Warren Fork). Highway 120 is unlikely to open today. The cause of the fire, originating at Walker Lake, is currently under investigation.

Walker fire burns in Bohler Canyon.

The Walker Fire burns during the night of August 15, just west of Highway 395, in Bohler Canyon. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

Highway 120 (Tioga Pass) closed temporarily due to Walker Fire

August 15th, 2015 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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Highway 120 west, Tioga Pass, has been closed until further notice due to the Walker Fire, which started last night just north of Walker Lake in the Mono Basin. Sheriffs’ deputies are stopping westbound traffic near the Mobil station on Highway 120. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

The Walker Fire at approximately  3:30pm on August 15. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

The Walker Fire at approximately 3:30pm on August 15. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

Wildfire west of Mono Lake: 150-acre Walker Fire

August 15th, 2015 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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Smoke from the Walker Fire was visible from the Mono Basin Outdoor Education Center this morning. Photo by Elin Ljung.

Smoke from the Walker Fire was visible from the Mono Basin Outdoor Education Center this morning. Photo by Elin Ljung.

According to the Inyo National Forest, the Walker Fire started last night and has grown to approximately 150 acres this morning. It is located just north of Walker Lake in the Mono Basin, toward the north end of the June Lake Loop (Highway 158). Firefighters from local departments and agency crews responded quickly, and about 150 firefighters and one helicopter are on the scene.

The Walker Lake Resort has been evacuated, and the dirt road along the base of the mountains (road 1N17, known locally as the “aqueduct road”) is closed. The Mono Pass trailhead at Walker Lake is also closed. Highway 120 west to Tioga Pass and the entrance to Yosemite National Park is open. Highway 395, the June Lake Loop, and all Mono Lake access points are also open.

Visitors will see smoke from Highway 395, the June Lake area, the Mono Lake area, and the town of Lee Vining. Right now in Lee Vining the air is clear with a few small white ashes falling.

The cause of the fire is under investigation. However, after four years of record drought, and with 17 wildfires currently burning in California, it bears repeating that fire restrictions are in effect. In the Inyo National Forest and on local BLM lands, this means no campfires, no barbeques, and no stoves outside of designated campgrounds. When in doubt, get a California campfire permit from the Mono Basin Scenic Area Visitor Center.

The Walker Fire, shortly after it ignited late on Friday, August 14. Photo courtesy of Todd Robertson.

The Walker Fire seen from Highway 395, shortly after it ignited late on Friday, August 14. Photo courtesy of Todd Robertson.

Caltrans Rockfall Project work suspended for the rest of the year; no more traffic delays north of Lee Vining

August 14th, 2015 by Lisa, Eastern Sierra Policy Director
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As of Wednesday, August 12, the contractor completed Stage 1 of the Lee Vining Rockfall Safety Project and all equipment, including one-lane traffic control signals and barricades, have been removed from the project site. Since early May, Highway 395 north of Lee Vining had been reduced to one-lane to allow the crew room to maneuver—scaling rocks off the slopes, installing anchored mesh, and applying blends of soil amendments and seeds for successful revegetation.

The completed work on Slope 6 of the Lee Vining Rockfall Safety Project: rocks scaled away, anchored mesh installed, and mulch, soil amendments, and seeds applied. Photo by Sandra Noll.

The completed work on Slope 6 of the Lee Vining Rockfall Safety Project: rocks scaled away, anchored mesh installed, and mulch, soil amendments, and seeds applied. Photo by Sandra Noll.

Stage 1 is completed and four of the six project slopes are done. Stage 2 will address slopes 3 and 4 and will begin in spring 2016 as soon as weather conditions allow for work.

The project was originally planned to take two seasons to complete and although it appeared for a while that the entire project would be finished this year, the contractor is playing it safe by not transitioning to the next phase and allowing an entire season for Stage 2. Traffic delays are done for now and all of us—including the contractor—will know what to expect next spring.

Following Osprey at Mono Lake

August 13th, 2015 by Sara, Mono Lake Intern
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Photo by Erv Nichols.

An Osprey comes in to land on its nest atop a tufa tower at Mono Lake. Photo by Erv Nichols.

For the past 20 years the saga of the Osprey has been unfolding at Mono Lake. In the mid-1980s the first nesting pair of Osprey was recorded at Mono Lake. They built their nest of assorted sticks and branches high atop a tufa tower rising up out of Mono Lake’s salty, alkaline waters. Unfortunately, that year was unsuccessful for the pair and they eventually left the nest in the fall with no signs of chicks ever having hatched. Determined, the pair returned to Mono Lake the next year and began the process again—and again, they were unsuccessful. All told, it took the pair of Osprey five seasons of returning to Mono Lake and giving their best efforts before they successfully hatched two chicks. Since then, Mono Lake’s Osprey population has been on the rise. … more »

Caltrans Hwy 395 rockfall project report #7

August 11th, 2015 by Robbie, Project Specialist
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Caltrans-rockfall-update-graphic

Caltrans has released the seventh 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 #7

(Click for Map Images)

Capture 7aCapture 7b

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 »

The Mono Basin’s top ten July birds

August 10th, 2015 by Sandra, Birding Intern
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Another month has flown by and it’s time to unveil July’s top ten bird encounters; birds seen within a half-hour radius of the Mono Lake Committee headquarters. July’s birding continued to be enriched by the maturation and fledging of chicks and by initial sightings of migratory grebes and phalaropes along the shore of Mono Lake.

Violet-green Swallow atop tufa tower at South Tufa. Photo by Sandra Noll.

Violet-green Swallow atop tufa tower at South Tufa. Photo by Sandra Noll.

1.  California Gull fledglings—According to Kristie Nelson, Mono Lake California Gull Project Leader, this has been a “highly successful year for the gulls, better than we have seen in over ten years for both population size and chick production.”
2.  Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch—often seen in the high country … more »

Refreshments with Refreshing ‘Ologists: Pete Pumphrey & Owens Lake

August 8th, 2015 by Sarah, Mono Lake Intern
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Join us on Wednesday, August 12 at 4:00pm in the Mono Lake Committee gallery for this year’s first Refreshments with Refreshing ‘Ologists lecture: Pete Pumphrey will be here to discuss Owens Lake, the “other Eastern Sierra saline lake.

Owens Lake, the "other Eastern Sierra saline lake." Photo by Elin Ljung.

Owens Lake, the “other Eastern Sierra saline lake.” Photo by Elin Ljung.

Pete is a retired attorney who served as an environmental prosecutor with the San Joaquin County Office of the District Attorney. He is the vice-chair of the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board, … more »

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