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The Mono-logue

Rush Creek dodges another setback: Mono Lake Committee action prompts flow adjustment

March 16th, 2016 by Lisa, Eastern Sierra Policy Director
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Despite some snow on the peaks and forecasters still calling for an El Niño weather pattern, Grant Lake Reservoir remains at a precariously low level. With three Southern California Edison (SCE) reservoirs upstream, and four years of drought to catch up from, Grant will be the last reservoir to benefit from this year’s runoff. Since lower Rush Creek is dependent on Grant Lake Reservoir for its water, and because special water management rules are triggered when Grant drops to a certain level, the Mono Lake Committee was busy in December ensuring that the best possible situation was secured for Rush Creek for the remainder of the winter.

A snow-covered Grant Lake Reservoir at the lowest it has been since 2009, showing the current low volume of water (approximately 11,000 acre-feet) and exposed banks. Photo by Santiago Escruceria.

A snow-covered Grant Lake Reservoir at the lowest it has been since 2009, showing the current low volume of water (approximately 11,000 acre-feet) and exposed banks. Photo by Santiago Escruceria.

Grant can only go so low

In 1994, the California State Water Resources Control Board, by way of Decision 1631, had the foresight to protect flows in Rush Creek from scenarios in which Grant Lake Reservoir gets abnormally low. … more »

Planning update from the Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua team

March 14th, 2016 by Nora, Lead Naturalist Guide
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Photo by Santiago Escruceria 2015

An American Kestrel, Falco sparverius, perches regally on a snag. Photo by Santiago Escruceria.

Planning a birding festival takes a significant amount of work and time. We, along with our organizing partners at California State Parks, now have 14 years of experience under our belts, so our Fifteenth Annual Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua planning is progressing smoothly. We’ve assembled a complete schedule in grid form and it is now available to view on the website for all you pre-planners out there. Our program information with trip descriptions and leader biographies will be up on the website in the next two weeks. This will give attendees plenty of time to plan for registration on Friday, April 15. Remember, the Fifteenth Annual Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua is June 17–19 this year. … more »

Will Mono Lake rise in 2016?

March 12th, 2016 by Geoff, Executive Director
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The question for 2016: Will the winter be big enough to make Mono Lake rise? The short answer is: stay tuned to see what happens in the second half of winter. Snowpack conditions are the key to lake level forecasting, and they are currently far better than the last four drought years. But the snowpack is not yet above average for the Mono Basin.

Mono Lake Committee staff walked to the narrow moat of water that still separates Negit Island from the mainland last November. Photo by Elin LJung.

Mono Lake Committee staff walked to the narrow moat of water that still separates Negit Island from the mainland last November. Photo by Elin Ljung.

Will water exports be allowed?

The lake level is currently 6378 feet above sea level. The rules controlling water exports to Los Angeles recognize the ecological jeopardy the lake is in when it approaches 6377 feet, and they add a twist. As usual, the lake level gets measured on April 1—if it is below 6377, no exports are allowed for the following 12 months. That part is straightforward and easy.

The twist comes in when the hydrologic modeling … more »

The sixth grade science of Mono Lake

March 9th, 2016 by Greg, Information & Restoration Specialist
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Last week, I received a text message from Luis Santos, a friend and coordinator of The Grateful Dads, a hiking group to which I belong. He was wondering if I could come talk to his sixth grade students about Mono Lake, since they were studying it in science class.

MLC Information & Restoration Specialist Greg Reis speaking to sixth graders at Ecole Bilingue Berkeley. Photo by Luis Santos.

The Committee’s Information & Restoration Specialist Greg Reis speaking to sixth graders at Ecole Bilingue Berkeley. Photo courtesy of Luis Santos.

I immediately was excited about the idea. I love sharing the Mono Lake story, and my field seminars have been highly rated. Also, my own sixth grade science class and my teacher, Mr. Lewis, were very influential in my life, and I can trace many of my current interests and scientific curiosity back to that time. … more »

Winter & Spring 2016 Mono Lake Newsletter now online

March 1st, 2016 by Arya, Communications Director
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Newsletter-WiSp-coverIt is often said that hope is not a strategy. At the Mono Lake Committee we take that to heart. Hope plays an important role, but it’s not a strategy. Balancing hope for a “big winter” with a dedication to tracking the sometimes-sobering realities of what the weather patterns are actually delivering is a challenge—especially after four drought years and in the flurry of excitement about and promise of the current El Niño.

Don’t get me wrong, Committee staff are the first to rejoice in any snowfall that comes our way. On any given day you might find Bartshe skiing up Tioga Pass at lunch; Jess finding new lines off of June Mountain; Robbie, Lily, Andrew, and Nora laying fresh tracks by moonlight; Lisa out checking on trout while walking Tucker; Elin telemarking with friends; or Geoff with his not-yet-two-year-old on her first set of skis. … more »

Keeping an eye on Mono Lake’s California Gulls

February 27th, 2016 by Geoff, Executive Director
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As the winter of 2015–16 unfolds in the Mono Basin, those of us lucky enough to live here are enjoying tracking every storm and taking the measure of El Niño’s effects. After years of drought, many Mono Lake issues are critically affected by the size of this winter’s snowpack.

But we can’t wait until the final snowflake has fallen to plan for 2016. This is especially true for the protection of the California Gulls that nest on Negit Island and surrounding islets, because the magnitude of the winter will directly determine how safe the nesting ground is this year.

Newsletter-WiSp-gull-protection-2015-08-30-1633---MFDC1273

Nesting gulls were safe from coyotes in 2015 but Committee wildlife camera observations confirmed that coyotes are active in the landbridge area. Photo from a Mono Lake Committee wildlife camera.

California’s four-year drought has lowered Mono Lake more than five feet, causing the re-emergence of a substantial portion of the landbridge that connected the north shore to the gull nesting grounds in … more »

A wetter but still below-average winter in the Mono Basin

February 25th, 2016 by Greg, Information & Restoration Specialist
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The strong 2015–2016 El Niño winter is likely to turn out below-average in the Mono Basin. The 90% of average February 1st snowpack, and an 80% of average preliminary runoff forecast based on that snowpack, were followed by a dry February. In the next week, March 1st snow surveys will reveal how bad things are. A wet March might be able to catch things back up to average, but it would take a very wet spring to shift the snowpack and snowmelt runoff above average at this point. From 1980–2010, the lowest March snowpack that resulted in above-average runoff was 110%. … more »

Volunteer for Mono Lake this year

February 24th, 2016 by Jessica, Office Director
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The Mono Lake Volunteer program had a great 2015 season, with over 60 volunteers, the cooperation of a number of Mono Basin partners, and a generous grant from CalParks, all helping to make this long-standing program a successful one.

The 2015 volunteers celebrate the end of a successful season. Photo courtesy of Janet Carle.

The 2015 volunteers celebrate the end of a successful season. Photo courtesy of Janet Carle.

After such a great year, we are getting ready for the 2016 volunteer season! We are now recruiting volunteers for this … more »

Meh Niño

February 22nd, 2016 by Bartshé, Education Director
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After a nearly four-year absence, winter has made an appearance in the Mono Basin, but it has not met expectations of a very strong, “Godzilla” El Niño.

Photo by Andrew Youssef.

The “Godzilla” El Niño has yet to impress at Mono Lake. Photo by Andrew Youssef.

In Lee Vining we have enjoyed the full spectrum of winter weather: freezing fog, snow, rain, and cold temperatures. We have experienced something much closer to a normal winter, and after four years of well-below-normal winters, we are easily impressed by even a little bit of snow. While the psychological bar is very low, the true measure of winter for Mono Lake is in the water content of the Sierra snowpack and the eventual runoff—these numbers … more »

Field Seminar registration opens March 1 for non-members

February 20th, 2016 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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The complete list of all the Mono Lake Committee’s 2016 Field Seminars is online here, and registration opens for those who are not Mono Lake Committee members at 9:00am on Tuesday, March 1st.

Wander through stunning Mono Basin aspen groves in search of arborglyphs etched on tree trunks. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

This year’s slate of 21 field seminars spans many topics: basketry, watercolors, woodpeckers, moonlight photography, geology, mining history, Basque sheepherders, kayaking, and more. … more »

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