The Mono Lake Story
In 1941, the Los Angeles
Department of Water and Power began diverting
Mono Lake's tributary streams 350 miles south to
meet the growing water demands of Los Angeles.
||Deprived of its freshwater sources, the volume of
Mono Lake halved, while its salinity doubled.
Unable to adapt to these changing conditions
within such a short period of time, the ecosystem
began to collapse. The photo at left was taken in
1962, after the lake had already dropped almost
25 vertical feet.
important nesting sites, became peninsulas vulnerable to
mammalian and reptilian predation. Photosynthetic rates
of algae, the base of the food chain, were reduced while
reproductive abilities of brine shrimp became impaired.
Stream ecosystems unraveled due to lack of water. Air
quality grew poor as the exposed lake bed became the
source of air-borne particulate matter, violating the
Clean Air Act. If something was not done, Mono Lake was
certain to become a lifeless chemical sump. The photo at
right was taken in 1968. The one below was taken in 1995,
at a lake level over 40 vertical feet below the
||Appalled by this prospect, David
Gaines formed the Mono Lake
Committee in 1978 and began talking to conservation
clubs, schools, service organizations, legislators,
lawyers and to anyone who would listen about the value of
this high desert lake. Under David Gaines' leadership,
the Mono Lake Committee grew to 20,000 members and gained
legal and legislative recognition for Mono Lake.
A decade later, David Gaines and a
Committee staff volunteer, Don Oberlin, were killed in a
winter automobile accident near Lee Vining. Despite the
loss of its founder, our citizens' action group has
continued to lead the fight to protect Mono Lake.
Since 1978, the Committee has achieved
many accomplishments in the fight to protect Mono Lake.
Working with the public and an extraordinary coalition of
government agencies and non-profit groups, the Committee
has brought negotiation, legislation, and litigation to
Mono Lake's support.