Sunrise light on a grove of tufa towers emerging from the water of Mono Lake with soft green and dusty-red wild grasses in the foreground, Canada geese in the shallow water with reflections of the rocky towers, and desert hills in the distance.

DWP streamflow violations in the Mono Basin uncovered

Careful analysis of the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power’s (DWP) May 13, 2013 report to the State Water Board shows a disturbing pattern of streamflow violations and reporting failures in the Mono Basin in 2012. As a watchdog for Mono Lake and its tributary streams, the Mono Lake Committee has submitted this letter to the State Water Board outlining the violations and requesting appropriate action.

Mono Lake Committee Executive Director Geoff McQuilkin said, “The minimum flows in the creeks are required by the California State Water Board to protect fish and stream habitats. DWP needs to keep its promises by following the rules. Otherwise, it’s the creeks that suffer—the fish, the streamside forests, the birds—in these places that people have worked so hard to restore.”

The Committee’s June 19 letter details 128 violations
of minimum streamflows in 2012 on Rush, Lee Vining, Parker, and Walker creeks. The standout violation was on Walker Creek where DWP water diversion operations caused streamflow to fall up to 35% below the ordered minimum for a continuous month in duration. In total, Walker Creek suffered 43 days of flow violation, a full 58% of the days on which DWP conducted diversions.

Significantly, none of the violations were reported within 72 hours, as required by the State Water Board, making it difficult to evaluate specific flow violation impacts.

The compliance report did not explain the cause or any correction of the violations, or plans to avoid them in the future, which is also required by the State Water Board.

The Committee requested that the State Water Board investigate the violations, consider possible fines, halt the most problematic diversion at Walker Creek for now, and require improved reporting.

The Mono Lake Committee is keeping a close eye on this situation in order to protect and restore Mono Lake, and is also pursuing DWP’s Mono Lake monitoring failures documented in the same report. We will post progress on this issue here on The Mono-logue.

The Mono Lake Committee's June 19 letter to the State Water Board. Click on the image to see the full letter.