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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…)

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…)

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…)

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…)

A bountiful year at Mono Lake

Monday, September 30th, 2019 by Geoff, Executive Director

If you wanted to summarize this past summer at Mono Lake in one word it would be this: phalaropes.

Phalaropes flocked in spectacular formations at South Tufa this summer. Photo by Andrew Youssef.

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…)

Invasive plants—we’re in the thick of it!

Wednesday, September 4th, 2019 by Meghan, Mono Lake Intern

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?”

Interns Meghan and AnnaLisa checking along Mill Creek for invasive plant species. Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

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…)

Stream monitoring in the Mono Basin: Rush Creek field camera

Monday, September 2nd, 2019 by Chloe, Mono Lake Intern

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.

Me on the way to the Rush Creek field camera with Mono Lake in the background. Photo by 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…)

Retired Mono County Superior Court Judge Edward Denton passes

Tuesday, August 13th, 2019 by Geoff, Executive Director

Judge Edward Denton, April 24, 1926–July 12, 2019. Photo courtesy of the Reno Record-Courier.

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.

In a recent issue of the local paper, The Sheet, retired Judge Stan Eller recounted his memory of (more…)

Riparian restoration in the Mono Basin

Tuesday, August 6th, 2019 by Caroline Bottega

Intern Caroline Bottega recording groundwater levels on Rush Creek tributary. Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

“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…)

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