When you look at Mono Lake, what do you see?
Some people see a pristine landscape and others see a place marked by human engineering. Some see it as otherworldly and some see the most beautiful place on Earth. Some see a beloved vacation spot, others see home.
I recently heard about someone who saw Mono Lake as a failure. They walked along the County Park boardwalk, saw the management level sign with the water so far away and thought, “how sad, they couldn’t save Mono Lake.”
Even though this broke my heart, they could be forgiven for seeing the lake this way. Today, 27 years after the State Water Board decision to save Mono Lake, the shoreline is nowhere near the healthy management level. We are forced to see what is happening during this dry year: a lake perilously low and dropping, a lake again pushed to the brink by drought.
Many of us see Mono Lake as an environmental success story. We’re starting a new chapter in this story, one in which we must follow the path set out in case the lake didn’t rise as expected. That path will take us back to the State Water Board for a hearing to determine whether we need to try a different way to raise Mono Lake to the management level.
Those who remember the days of fighting for the lake in hearing rooms may see that happen again. Some people may be tempted to see Mono Lake and Los Angeles as rivals for water, but as LA’s own future water supply planning shows, there is enough for both places.
As you read this issue of the Mono Lake Newsletter you’ll see our analysis and plans for this next chapter. And when you visit, I hope you can envision the lake almost 11 feet higher at its healthy management level even while seeing it so low today. For as several articles in this issue put it, the requirement to raise Mono Lake 6392 feet will not change, but the way we reach it might.
Top photo courtesy of John Dittli.