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‘Mill Creek Restoration’ Category

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…)

Following Mill Creek water rights

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2019 by Lisa, Associate Policy Director

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.

Mill Creek and the Wilson system flow through the north part of the Mono Basin. Photo by Sandra Noll.

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…)

Evidence of high flows persists on Mill Creek: Restoration potential reaffirmed

Monday, July 2nd, 2018 by Lisa, Associate Policy Director

Almost a year after the epic 2017 winter and resulting record Mono Basin runoff, positive effects from the high flows can still be seen on all of Mono Lake’s tributary streams—including, notably, the beleaguered floodplain of the Mill Creek bottomlands.

During last year’s record runoff, long-dry side channels in the Mill Creek bottomlands carried water; some of the rewatered channels were still flowing this spring. Photo by Elin Ljung.

Last summer, long-dry side channels in the bottomlands carried water when Lundy Lake Reservoir spilled for almost the entire summer. Some of these rewatered channels are still flowing despite low-flow early springtime conditions, and evidence of lasting restoration benefits is abundant. Back eddies and ponded areas well away from flowing channels continue to hold water. Below the surface, recharged groundwater is once again available for vegetation, and fine sediment deposited across floodplain cobble is primed for new seedlings to grow. All of this is a glimpse into Mill Creek’s bright future. (more…)

Mill Creek return ditch passes test: Possible solution to returning diverted water back to the creek

Thursday, April 5th, 2018 by Lisa, Associate Policy Director

In an effort to explore ways to return water to Mill Creek and therefore satisfy its legal obligations, Southern California Edison (SCE) released water from the Lundy hydroelectric plant into the Mill Creek return ditch last September, successfully returning water to the creek (see Fall 2017 Mono Lake Newsletter). The return ditch has been part of the hydropower system for a century. SCE was motivated to do this flow test because of the languishing problem of how to comply with Mill Creek water rights.

The Mill Creek return ditch carried flows of up to 16 cubic feet per second during a 61-day test last fall, returning water to the creek consistent with long-established water rights. Photo by Elin Ljung.

Prior to releasing water into the ditch, SCE evaluated the system and did routine maintenance to stabilize the earthen banks. SCE staff were on site during (more…)

Diverse watchdog duties keep the Mono Lake Committee busy

Wednesday, April 4th, 2018 by Geoff, Executive Director

The Mono Lake Committee is serious about protecting and restoring Mono Lake, its tributary streams, and surrounding lands. That means being on constant alert as a watchdog, and recent months have provided some interesting examples of what that requires.

The Committee keeps a close eye on daily Mono Basin streamflows at multiple locations, such as the recovering Rush Creek bottomlands. Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

Sometimes the Committee chases issues that have lengthy histories and require continuous pressure to move toward resolution—the 2013 Stream Restoration Agreement with the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (DWP) is one example. Years of work (more…)

Help remove invasive plants in the Mono Basin

Sunday, July 30th, 2017 by Ava, Outdoor Education Instructor

As July winds down and August approaches, we find ourselves faced with increasing quantities of a prolific invasive plant species in the Mono Basin. Dense patches of sweet white clover can be seen along streambeds, roadsides, edges of parking lots, and areas where soil has recently been disrupted, which softens the ground for the opportunistic and tenacious seeds. Unseen below the ground, its roots begin the process of nitrogen fixation, changing the chemical properties of the soil. Removing invasive plant species has been part of an ongoing restoration process to clear the ground so that native species may flourish.

Volunteers helping remove white sweet clover and other invasive plants along Mill Creek. Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

The Mono Lake Committee has been involved in removal projects for several years to reduce the amount of sweet white clover (Melilotus albus) growing in the Mono Basin. These efforts often entail taking groups of interns, volunteers, visiting students from the Outdoor Education Center, and interested community members into the field for some hands-on learning.

For those who are in town and willing to help (more…)

New Mono Lake Committee monitoring programs for best management

Monday, August 8th, 2016 by Robbie, Restoration Field Technician

Over the last two years working for the Mono Lake Committee, I have been collecting a variety of hydrologic data in the Mono Basin and it’s been really inspiring to see how this data leads to real and positive changes for Mono Lake. By measuring streamflows, water table depths, and most recently water temperatures, the Committee is able to use scientific evidence to suggest management actions.

Mono Lake Intern Gabby measuring streamflow on Mill Creek. Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

Last summer was the first year of our Grant Lake Reservoir monitoring program, which measured temperature and dissolved oxygen throughout the water column at key (more…)

Healing Mono Lake’s tributary streams: Come help us remove invasive plants

Thursday, July 21st, 2016 by Mono Lake Committee Staff

This post was written by Sara Matthews, 2015 & 2016 Mono Lake Intern.

If you’re in the area on Monday, July 25, consider joining Mono Lake Committee staff and naturalist Ann Howald to help pull invasive plant species!

Join us on Monday to help pull invasive plant species from along Mono Lake's tributary streams. Photo by Julie Curtis.

Join us on Monday to help pull invasive plant species from along Mono Lake’s tributary streams. Photo by Julie Curtis.

We’ll be spending the morning out in the field working to restore Mill Creek, one of Mono Lake’s important tributary streams. As a special treat, guest naturalist Ann Howald will be joining us. Ann is a retired consulting botanist who has taught popular Committee field seminars for over ten years, so she is certain to enrich the experience for all.

We are meeting at the Mono Lake Committee at 8:00am on Monday, July 25. The day’s adventure will include traversing through mixed sagebrush communities, willow lined riparian areas, and perhaps even in a cold stream! Please be sure to bring shoes that can get wet, sun protection, and plenty of water.

A picnic lunch will be provided so if you think you may be able to make it, please RSVP to me by email so we can plan accordingly. However, last minute drop-ins are also welcome! Contact me by email or at (760) 647-6595 with any questions.

Mono Lake Committee’s ecological monitoring program at 38 years

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016 by Lisa, Associate Policy Director

Type the word “monitoring” into the Mono Lake Committee’s website search bar and 673 results appear. To say that scientific monitoring and environmental advocacy work go hand in hand for the Committee is an understatement.

The Committee collects streamf ow and water diversion data for Mono Basin streams monthly all year, and weekly in summer. Photo by Erv Nichols.

The Committee collects streamflow and water diversion data for Mono Basin streams monthly all year, and weekly in summer. Photo by Erv Nichols.

Ever since the Committee’s founders conducted the fundamental and pivotal ecological study of Mono Lake in 1976, scientific research and monitoring have been the basis for all of the work that has followed. In crafting policy positions, all aspects of an issue must be analyzed and understood, since arriving at a balanced (more…)

Native plant conditions at Mill Creek improve

Monday, May 23rd, 2016 by Robbie, Restoration Field Technician

On May 18, 2015 I wanted to assess the types and quantities of invasive plants that were present at Mill Creek. Melilotus albus (sweet clover) was quickly identified as the most prolific and abundant invasive plant species present along Mill Creek, which I documented with GPS points and photos. With the help of volunteers and school groups, we were able to remove over 730 pounds of sweet clover from Mill Creek in 2015 from mid-June to mid-August by manually pulling and clipping the invasive plants. Now in 2016 the difference is noticeable.

Image on the left shows an island in Mill Creek totally dominated by invasive Sweet Clover on May 18th, 2015. The image on the right shows the same island on May 13th, 2016 with only a small patch of Sweet Clover in the center of the island; the rest of the vegetation consists of native clovers, moss, and willow saplings.

Image on the left shows an island in Mill Creek totally dominated by invasive sweet clover on May 18, 2015. The image on the right shows the same island on May 13, 2016 with only a small patch of sweet clover in the center of the island; the rest of the vegetation consists of native clovers, moss, grass, and willow saplings. Photos by Robbie Di Paolo.

Areas of Mill Creek where we focused sweet clover removal efforts in 2015 are now showing native plants retaking the prized riparian habitat in 2016 (as demonstrated by the photo above), which is exactly what we want to be seeing.

Unfortunately, we can’t take all the credit. Seasonal variation has a big impact on what plants dominate a landscape year to year and compared to the last three years, we had much more snow this year. That snow probably helped a lot with inhibiting sweet clover growth and development. But I believe with continued efforts, we are giving the native plants a chance to secure their place along Mill Creek for years to come.

Special thanks to outdoor clothing company Patagonia Inc. for their support of the Mono Lake Committee’s restoration stewardship program.

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