‘Stream Restoration’ Category
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.
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…)
If you wanted to summarize this past summer at Mono Lake in one word it would be this: phalaropes.
The dainty Mono-loving migrators put on spectacular displays at South Tufa for many days, dipping and weaving in tight flocks of thousands. Visitors stopped in their tracks and canoes floated in place to watch the aerial acrobatics. Mono Lake Committee staff captured one dramatic episode on video and it quickly became our most-watched video ever; you can see it for yourself here.
The phalaropes have now headed to points south for the winter, but like many things at Mono Lake, their summer displays were possible thanks to protection work behind the scenes (more…)
When I first started at the Mono Lake Committee as an intern this past June, I had very little concept of why invasive plants are such a threat to healthy habitats. I would see posters plastered around boat ramps, heard about volunteer opportunities for invasive plant removal, and driven through vehicle inspection stops and thought, “so what?”
Last month I took my first invasive plant scouting trip down at Mill Creek (one of Mono Lake’s tributaries that the Committee is working to restore) with Restoration Field Technician Robbie Di Paolo. It didn’t take long to see the threats invasive species pose here in the Mono Basin and why they’re so important to address. (more…)
The smell of sagebrush permeates the air. Rush Creek, full and thriving, flows by on its way to Mono Lake. The hot Sierra sun beats down on the brim of my Mono Lake Committee hat as I tramp along behind another Committee intern, Ellie Neifeld, and Restoration Field Technician Robbie Di Paolo.
We head away from the road, pushing through fragrant sagebrush and thorny bitterbrush and occasionally slipping down sandy hills. Eventually we make our way to our destination: a field camera overlooking Rush Creek! The field camera blends in well, sitting unobtrusively out of the way of both humans and animals as it takes one photo every five minutes of Rush Creek. (more…)
Judge Edward Denton, who played an influential role in re-watering Lee Vining Creek, died on July 12, 2019 at age 93.
During a heat wave in May of 1986 the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (DWP) was forced to release water down the previously-dry Lee Vining Creek—water that brought trout with it. The Mono Lake Committee quickly went to court to keep water flowing in the creek for the trout, and it was Mono County Superior Court Judge Denton who granted the temporary restraining order that forced DWP to release enough water to keep the fish alive until the case could be tried. While it was just ten cubic feet per second of water, it was a significant decision to the Mono Lake Committee.
“I can really count this as work?” I thought, while wading knee-deep in the cool, swift water of Rush Creek. Robbie Di Paolo, the Mono Lake Committee’s Restoration Field Technician, was a few paces ahead and leading the way to our next monitoring well. It felt like a scavenger hunt, as we navigated from well to well between the stream channels and sagebrush until another tall, white PVC pipe would finally appear among the vegetation.
Part of the mission of the Mono Lake Committee is to restore the important habitats of the Mono Basin, which include the habitats of the freshwater tributaries that feed Mono Lake. As one of my intern projects for the summer, I have been tasked with collecting groundwater measurements along both Lee Vining Creek and Rush Creek each week. Through my weekly well readings, I have had the opportunity to get up close and personal with the Committee’s restoration efforts and dive deeper into the complex relationships that exist between the important habitats of the Mono Basin. (more…)
Dick Dahlgren, a successful advocate for stopping the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s (DWP) total diversion of Rush Creek, died on July 9 in Boise, Idaho near his home.
In 1984, Dick, an avid fly-fisherman, found a population of healthy brown trout in lower Rush Creek—a finding that was more surprising than it may initially seem. Historically a blue ribbon fishery, Rush Creek ran dry after the LA Aqueduct was built in 1941 and (more…)
Mill Creek, Mono Lake’s third-largest tributary, is unique in the Mono Basin because it was never diverted to Los Angeles. Mill Creek is also the heart of one of the Eastern Sierra’s natural treasures, Lundy Canyon, where it flows from the Sierra crest through waterfalls, fields of wildflowers, and beaver dams, into and out of Lundy Lake Reservoir, and through rare wooded wetlands before it reaches Mono Lake.
Upper Mill Creek is healthy as evidenced by streamside forests and flows consistent with other Eastern Sierra streams. But downstream of Lundy Reservoir—especially in the (more…)
There are a number of ways to picture from afar the torrent of water heading downhill from the Sierra Nevada toward Mono Lake right now. One is to review data on the rapidly dwindling snowpack at Tioga Pass, some of which is destined for the lake. Another is to check in on DWP’s real time streamflow monitoring, which quantifies in cubic feet per second how much water the creeks are carrying. And depending on shadows and leaf, it is even possible to glimpse Mill Creek itself from an overhead webcam.
All of these tools provide critical information for the Mono Lake Committee, DWP, and stream scientists. But they also all seem sterile in comparison to actually standing next to a creek flowing at 50, 100, or even 350 cubic feet per second. The reason, I think, is that they have no sound. And to traipse along one of the swollen creeks pouring out of the Sierra and into the Mono Basin this summer is to be awash in sound.
To capture this auditory landscape, I spent a recent morning along the Lee Vining Creek Trail—not a half-mile from the Committee office—with my microphone, headphones, and field recorder. (more…)