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Efforts to rid Mono Lake’s islets of Bassia continue

Thursday, March 12th, 2020 by Elin, Communications Coordinator

Since mid-February’s successful prescribed burn on Twain Islet to clear breeding habitat for California Gulls, the Mono Lake Committee has been working with the Inyo National Forest and Point Blue Conservation Science to schedule another burn before the gulls return to nest for the season.

Mono Lake Committee and State Parks staff returned to Twain Islet in late February to continue efforts to restore California Gull nesting habitat. Photo by Andrew Youssef.

However, a combination of windy and rainy weather, the complex logistics of getting all parties out to the islands, and Point Blue biologists’ observations of gulls already returning to Mono Lake means that the burn window has closed for this spring.

Even though (more…)

Revised water license for DWP on the horizon: State Water Board expects finalization in 2020

Wednesday, March 11th, 2020 by Geoff, Executive Director

Over the past year, the California State Water Resources Control Board has been effectively advancing the long-running project of revising the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power’s (DWP) water license to include a set of next-generation stream restoration requirements agreed to in the Mono Basin Stream Restoration Agreement with the Mono Lake Committee.

Mono Lake’s tributaries will get streamflows that better mimic natural runoff patterns when DWP’s water license is amended to reflect the 2013 Mono Basin Stream Restoration Agreement. Photo by Andrew Youssef.

Signed in fall 2013, following 15 years of stream studies and three years of intensive legal negotiations, the Agreement was a significant milestone for Mono Lake. It marked the completion of a major area of study required by the State Water Board and the launch of a new period of restoration at Mono Lake in which the Los Angeles Aqueduct serves the new additional purpose of healing streams. In this new era, the important ecological, wildlife, scenic, and economic values of Mono Lake and its tributary streams will be recognized equally alongside the water needs of Los Angeles.

Persistence pays off

In the years since signing the Agreement, the Committee has maintained constant pressure on (more…)

A burning solution to the Bassia problem

Friday, February 21st, 2020 by Bartshé, Eastern Sierra Policy Director

In a monumental effort, the Inyo National Forest, in partnership with the Mono Lake Committee, conducted a series of prescribed fires with the specific goal of restoring California Gull breeding habitat on the islands in Mono Lake.

The Bassia caught fire better than expected in February’s warm, dry weather, so the Inyo fire crew burned as much as possible over two days. Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

Working between episodes of wintry weather, the Committee and Inyo fire personnel raced to mitigate the impact of a troublesome invasive plant, Bassia hyssopifolia, that has grown to cover over 70% of the Negit Islets and is preventing California Gulls from nesting successfully.

Despite an initial, discouraging assessment of how well the weeds might burn, in mid-February a long-planned prescribed fire moved forward and resulted in (more…)

Prescribed fire on Mono Lake’s islet in the LA Times

Saturday, February 15th, 2020 by Elin, Communications Coordinator

Veteran Los Angeles Times reporter Louis Sahagun accompanied Mono Lake Committee staff and Inyo National Forest fire personnel to Twain Islet yesterday for the prescribed burn to restore California Gull habitat taken over by the invasive weed Bassia hyssopifolia. Check out Louis’ article here, and if you get the paper, watch for it in tomorrow’s Sunday edition!

Smoke signals good news for Mono Lake’s California Gulls

Friday, February 14th, 2020 by Arya, Communications Director

If you were lucky enough to be in the Mono Basin—or if you checked out the webcam—the past two crystal clear, glassy water, calm days, you likely would have noticed something unusual rising out over Mono Lake—smoke.

There is no cause for alarm, it’s actually a good sign—especially for California Gulls whose nesting grounds on the Negit Islets are being cleared of an invasive weed in time for the 2020 nesting season.

After much consideration, the Inyo National Forest, Mono Lake Committee, and Point Blue Conservation Science concluded the most efficient course of action was to pursue a prescribed burn to eradicate the invasive weed taking over the gull nesting grounds. Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

In a partnership born out of a mutual interest in this critical wildlife habitat protection effort in the Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area, the Inyo National Forest, the Mono Lake Committee, and Point Blue Conservation Science have been planning and working towards a solution to the recent invasion of Bassia hyssopifolia for three years. The smoke rising from the islets is from a prescribed burn being done to protect gull nesting habitat.

The Mono Lake Committee advocated for a prescribed burn (more…)

Rush Creek’s January 2020 flow among the lowest on record

Thursday, February 13th, 2020 by Greg, Information & Restoration Specialist

Rush Creek flows above Grant Lake Reservior have been in the single-digits since mid-December. When adjusted for changes in Southern California Edison reservoir storage upstream, unimpaired near-natural runoff can be calculated. These unimpaired flows averaged 5.7 cubic feet per second (cfs) in January 2020—the lowest that I can remember seeing for a monthly average.

A portion of the USGS Mono Craters Quadrangle geologic map, with the Parker Creek stream gage circled in red at top and the Rush Creek gage circled in red in the middle. The Parker Creek watershed for its size has proportionally more surface sediment deposits above the gage, and the gage is lower in elevation than the Rush Creek gage. Both gages reported similar unimpaired flows in January.

A portion of the USGS Mono Craters Quadrangle geologic map, with the Parker Creek stream gauge circled in red at top and the Rush Creek gauge circled in red in the middle. The Parker Creek watershed for its size has proportionally more surface sediment deposits above the gauge, and the gauge is lower in elevation than the Rush Creek gauge. Both gauges reported similar unimpaired flows in January after five months of very low precipitation.

For comparison, flows in Parker Creek—a much smaller creek than Rush Creek—averaged 5 cfs in January. Interestingly, Parker Creek has two glaciers in its watershed and Rush Creek has none, a difference that would tend to affect summer flows more than January flows. (more…)

Time lapse video: Watch Mono Lake rise a foot before your eyes

Friday, December 20th, 2019 by Andrew, Digital Engagement Coordinator

In 2019, Mono Lake an entire vertical foot. Watch below for a quick time lapse video showing the this past summer’s lake rise and see the shoreline change by the day.

It has been an exciting year for Mono Lake and its tributary streams with the lake rising a foot and the best possible streamflows secured on Rush, Lee Vining, Parker, and Walker creeks.

We hope you’ll consider sending a year-end gift today to help the Committee prepare for the challenges and opportunities ahead in 2020. The protection and restoration of Mono Lake is ongoing; we’re grateful that your support is, too. Thank you.

2019 Mono Lake Committee Annual Report

Saturday, December 7th, 2019 by Arya, Communications Director

The Mono Lake Committee’s 2019 Annual Report is now available online and in print!

The 2019 Mono Lake Committee Annual Report is now available online. Photo courtesy of Thomas Piekunka.

The report is full of photos of the Mono Lake Committee in action in our focus areas of protection, restoration, education, and scientific research. It also has the Committee’s (more…)

Monitoring willow growth along Rush Creek

Tuesday, October 29th, 2019 by AnnaLisa, Mono Lake Intern

After tumbling out of the car following a jaunt down Forest Service roads to Rush Creek, fellow intern Meghan and I started the steep, sandy descent to a location known as Vestal Springs, weaving our way between fragrant sagebrush and rose shrubs.

AnnaLisa measuring a willow stem as Robbie looks on. Photo by Meghan Cihasky.

The springs are named for California Fish & Game Biologist Elden Vestal (1914–1998), an expert on Mono Lake’s tributary streams and a critical witness during the courtroom and State Water Board proceedings leading up to the 1994 Mono Lake decision.

Vestal Springs support a lush, grassy oasis separate from the nearby riparian habitat of Rush Creek. In addition to grasses and wildflowers, the area is scattered with large willow trees. It is these trees that Meghan and I came here for. (more…)

New Inyo National Forest Land Management Plan released: Mono Lake tributary streams receive Wild and Scenic River System eligibility

Thursday, October 24th, 2019 by Bartshé, Eastern Sierra Policy Director

After more than five years of planning and public process, Inyo National Forest Supervisor Tammy Randall-Parker signed and released the Final Record of Decision for the Inyo National Forest Land Management Plan on October 23, 2019.

The new Inyo National Forest Land Management Plan includes Wild and Scenic River System eligibility for 15 segments of Mono Lake’s tributary streams, including Lee Vining Creek. Photo by Andrew Youssef.

The new Forest Plan replaces the 1988 version, and will provide much-needed and updated management direction for the Inyo’s two million acres. Included in the final plan are area-specific desired conditions for the Mono Basin. In addition to management direction for the Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area (incorporating existing Scenic Area Management plan guidelines), the new plan includes additional Wild and Scenic River System eligibility for 15 segments of Mono Basin streams—something the Mono Lake Committee advocated for extensively. (more…)

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