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Tioga Inn project: Changes get disappointing grades before final hearing on August 6

Tuesday, August 4th, 2020 by Bartshé, Eastern Sierra Policy Director

This Thursday, August 6, at 10:00am the Mono County Board of Supervisors will conduct a final hearing on the Tioga Inn project. After a lengthy hearing in June the Board gave the developer and staff direction to bring back significant design improvements to address visual impacts, fire concerns, and to add a safe pedestrian route between Lee Vining and the project site.

Community members speaking during the Tioga Inn hearing before the Board of Supervisors in June. Photo by Rose Nelson.

The revised project before the Board shows some progress on addressing visual impacts but falls woefully short on safety and fire protection. For example, the final proposal does not include a safe pedestrian route, isolating future residents from Lee Vining and providing no way for students to walk to school. The original five significant adverse impacts remain with the project, and Board must vote to accept these impacts without mitigation if they vote to approve the project this Thursday.

The developer’s new “Alternative #7-Hybrid Plan” is identified as the “Preferred Alternative.” How is it different from what the Board considered in late June? (more…)

Another public hearing on the Tioga Inn project: August 6, 2020

Friday, July 31st, 2020 by Bartshé, Eastern Sierra Policy Director

The Mono County planning staff have released the agenda and Board Packet for the Board of Supervisors special meeting on the Tioga Inn project on Thursday, August 6 at 10:00am.

Belt of Venus, Mono Lake by Jeff Sullivan

The view from South Tufa towards Tioga Pass, and the site of the Tioga Inn project. Photo courtesy of Jeff Sullivan.

The Board has the final authority to approve, modify, or deny the Tioga Inn project, which, at this time includes a new “hybrid” alternative that takes into consideration the board’s request for additional information on several aspects of the project that were the result of the last hearing in June.

This is yet another public hearing on this project. Despite board direction to modify the project, the project proponent is making a final attempt to (more…)

2020 Phalarope surveys begin at Mono Lake

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2020 by Rose, Education Director

As the Wilson’s and Red-Necked Phalaropes return to Mono Lake this summer, so do the folks who are studying these captivating birds.

This summer’s Mono Lake phalarope surveys started last week, conducted by staff from Oikonos Ecosystem Knowledge, California State Parks, and the Mono Lake Committee. Photo courtesy of Ryan Carle.

Last week the first of this summer’s surveys was conducted by boat and from shore to monitor the birds’ population status here at Mono Lake. That data will be utilized to gain a deeper understanding of the health of the two species across North and South America.

The study is spearheaded by Oikonos Ecosystem Knowledge’s Ryan Carle, and continues (more…)

Mono Lake Committee online store reopens for mail delivery and pickup

Monday, July 20th, 2020 by Lily, Information Center & Bookstore Manager

While our Information Center & Bookstore remains closed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, you can still support the Mono Lake Committee with the purchase of books and Mono Lake products online in our newly remodeled online store.

Use promo code SHOPONLINE to save 15% on orders over $50 through the end of July on the Mono Lake Committee’s new online store.

If you happen to be stopping in Lee Vining, you can even pick up your order right from our door on Fridays and Saturdays from 10:30am to 3:00pm (be sure to select the pickup option on the checkout page).

Our online store is stocked with (more…)

California Gulls return to nest on Mono Lake islet after prescribed burn

Sunday, July 19th, 2020 by Bartshé, Eastern Sierra Policy Director

Thanks to a series of memorable weed eradication efforts last winter and spring, California Gulls have returned to nest in healthy numbers on Twain Islet in Mono Lake.

Photo courtesy of Point Blue Conservation Science.

This summer’s California Gull research, conducted by Point Blue Conservation Science, revealed healthy numbers of California Gulls occupying nesting habitat formerly covered by the invasive plant Bassia hyssopifolia.

Through a combination of prescribed burning and (more…)

Mono Lake information station open in Lee Vining

Wednesday, July 15th, 2020 by Claire, Office Manager

A very quiet spring in the Mono Basin has given way to quite a busy summer, and there was a marked uptick in travelers in town leading up to the Fourth of July holiday weekend. With US Forest Service visitor centers closed, Yosemite National Park operating under restricted access procedures, and so many businesses working alternative operations, there have been many more questions from travelers than available answers.

Visitors can get answers to their questions at the Mono Lake Committee’s “pop-up” information station, Thursdays through Saturdays and some Sundays and Mondays. Photo by Claire Landowski.

So, although our bookstore space remains closed, the Mono Lake Committee has begun staffing a “pop-up” information station on our front patio to help address the myriad questions posed by the influx of visitors to the Eastern Sierra.

We’re calling it a “pop-up” station because we don’t have regular, set hours—we’re making the schedule week by week and adjusting as needed. We do plan to open the station on the weekends, likely Thursday through Saturday plus perhaps the occasional Sunday and Monday.

Rose opened the station for the first (more…)

2020 Lake level forecast report: Mono Lake to drop over a foot this runoff year

Wednesday, July 8th, 2020 by Arya, Communications Director

We wouldn’t blame you if you missed the April 1 start of the 2020–2021 runoff year this year. Since it’s such an important date for Mono Lake, we made sure to read the lake level gauge with Los Angeles Department of Water & Power staff (physically-distanced, of course), and the lake measured 6382.6 feet above sea level.

On April 1, 2020 Los Angeles Department of Water & Power and Mono Lake Committee staff safely read the lake level gauge. The result: 6382.6 feet above sea level. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

With this number in hand, both the Mono Lake Committee and DWP look at snowpack numbers, similar past years, and a veritable river of other hydrological statistical data, and each come up with a lake level forecast for the runoff year.

While DWP’s forecast is for only a 0.6-foot drop in lake level, there is evidence that its runoff forecast based on the April snowpack is too high, making the lake level projection too optimistic. Unfortunately, the Committee’s forecast is for a 1.2-foot net fall in lake level, which means that on April 1, 2021 we expect Mono Lake to be 1.2 feet lower than (more…)

Mono County Supervisors tackle the big picture on Tioga Inn, direct major fixes

Wednesday, July 1st, 2020 by Bartshé, Eastern Sierra Policy Director

After two lengthy days of public meeting and deliberation, the Mono County Board of Supervisors sent the Tioga Inn project back to the developer and staff for major improvements to the design and content.

In September last year, the Mono County Planning Commissioners and members of the public visited the Tioga Inn project site. Photo by Elin Ljung.

The Board affirmed its commitment to protect the long-term best interests of Mono County and its residents and visitors. Supervisors recognized the project will set a precedent for large development throughout the county and frequently noted the need to get the Tioga Inn project right, especially in light of its prominent location and size relative to the existing community.

Supervisors are expecting significant project design improvements that will reduce visual impacts, resolve fire concerns, and add a safe pedestrian route between Lee Vining and the project site. The Mono Lake Committee continues to work closely with the Lee Vining community and looks forward to engaging with Mono County staff to craft significant changes that will produce a project that respects the local community and the scenic Mono Basin.

The Board tentatively scheduled a July 20 special meeting an August 6 meeting when they can consider the improved project.

Eleventh-hour project changes

On Monday, thoughtful input from (more…)

Tioga Inn project hearing continues into day two

Tuesday, June 30th, 2020 by Arya, Communications Director

After nine hours of presentations and public comment yesterday, the Mono County Board of Supervisors decided to hold deliberations and their vote to approve, modify, or deny the Tioga Inn project on the planned second day of this special meeting.

Highlights and surprising moments from the meeting thus far include 51 in-person and by-Zoom two-minute-limited public comments, with 3 in support and 48 againstthe introduction of wholly new potential elements to the project from the developer, and wide-ranging questions from the Board.

In an effort to assess the effects of reflective surfaces at the proposed Tioga Inn project site, Mono Lake Committee staff brought a 2×3-foot mirror to the site and photographed the reflection from South Tufa. This photograph was presented to the Board. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

Mono Lake Committee staff comments focused on the unmitigated significant negative impacts in the Final Subsequent Environmental Impact Report—scenic impacts to South Tufa, the Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area, and throughout the viewshed, impacts to the dark night sky, and issues in direct conflict with the Mono Basin Community Plan, including pedestrian safety, impacts to schools, feasibility of a trail to town, fire safety, and more.

By far, the most impressive part of the day was the wide array of thoughtful and heartfelt comments from the public.

You can follow the proceedings starting today, Tuesday, June 30th at 9:00am online by Zoom, telephone, or live stream (click here for instructions for each).

See you there.

Looking west towards Tioga Pass from South Tufa. Photo courtesy of Jeff Sullivan.

Tioga Inn project: Minimal modeling shows significant impacts to the Mono Basin’s scenic resources

Saturday, June 27th, 2020 by Robbie, Restoration Field Technician

The Draft Subsequent Environmental Impact Report (DSEIR) for the Tioga Inn project identified five significant and unavoidable adverse impacts. Despite a large and comprehensive public response voicing concerns over these impacts, the Final Subsequent Environmental Impact Report (FSEIR) declared:

“The significant and unavoidable adverse impacts that were identified in the DSEIR will remain significant and unavoidable if the proposed Tioga [Inn] project is approved, even with modifications proposed in this FSEIR.”

Of these five impacts, impacts to scenic views were the hardest for me personally to fully comprehend since no 3-D models were provided to demonstrate what the project would look like after grading and construction were completed. Notably, the FSEIR acknowledged that project impacts to aesthetic resources were the most common and frequent concern from comment letters. To better understand what the final project as proposed in the FSEIR would look like I conducted a 3-D visualization and viewshed analysis using ArcGIS. (more…)

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