A stream flows through willows with scattered cottonwoods and pine trees with the mountains in the background under a clear blue sky.

Important stream restoration action expected in September

Restoration of damaged stream habitats and fisheries in the Mono Basin is poised to take a huge leap forward!

The California State Water Resources Control Board has released a draft of their planned final order, built on thoroughly researched science and the 2013 Mono Basin Stream Restoration Agreement. The Board anticipates issuing their final order in September. The order will implement a major new chapter of the stream restoration program, including ecologically beneficial streamflows and the Grant Dam infrastructure modification necessary to deliver them.

The ecological restoration work that is under way in the Mono Basin is healing the damage done by decades of excessive Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (DWP) water diversions in the last century that desiccated Mono Lake’s tributary streams—20 miles of Rush, Lee Vining, Parker, and Walker creeks stand to benefit. The full range of ecological and geomorphological processes in the Stream Restoration Agreement will make these streams more resilient to the droughts and climate change impacts we now live with.

The measures, which build on stream restoration actions implemented to date, were designed by expert independent scientists. They are designed to restore natural ecological and geomorphic stream processes such as pool scouring and overbank flooding to rebuild the riparian forest habitat for fish, birds, and wildlife.

The State Water Board mandated the stream restoration program. In 2013 the Stream Restoration Agreement between DWP, the Mono Lake Committee, the California Department of Fish & Wildlife, and CalTrout resolved longstanding obstacles to successful stream restoration. The Mono Lake Committee wrote to DWP this week offering congratulations on our collaborative solutions reaching finalization.

Committee staff and attorneys accomplished substantial work over the last decade to reach this point. We look forward to celebrating when the State Water Board issues their final order. And then the work continues: as the order draft notes, the still-pending restoration of Mono Lake to its ecologically sustainable level has not been accomplished. This is major work before us, the Board, DWP, and all who care about Mono Lake.

Top photo by Arya Harp.