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Mono Lake’s California Gulls safe for the season

Thursday, May 25th, 2017 by Geoff, Executive Director

A mile of citizen-funded solar-powered electric fence is up and running, protecting Mono Lake’s nesting gulls—one of the three largest colonies in the world—from mainland predators. The fence is the result of a year and a half of planning by the Mono Lake Committee and California State Parks along with other agency partners, a dedicated local installation team, and generous funding from Mono Lake supporters across the country.

The temporary electric fence stretching one mile across the landbridge has 11 motion-activated wildlife cameras with infrared nighttime flash capability along its length. In late April, camera #5 documented a coyote walking the fence line, confirming that the fence is functioning as a coyote barrier. Mono Lake Committee wildlife camera photo.

Why is the temporary fence—which will be removed when nesting is finished—needed? Five years of drought lowered Mono Lake seven feet, shrinking the protective moat of water between the lake’s north shore and Negit Island and adjacent islets—exposing a landbridge that allows coyotes access to the lake’s long-established nesting colony of California Gulls. Last summer signs were found on a few of these islets that coyotes had indeed walked the landbridge and then swum the remaining 500 feet or so of shallow water to prey on eggs and chicks, disrupting nesting and causing gulls to be suspicious of returning to these sites in future years.

Not a typical fence site

The electric mesh netting fence used for the project (more…)

Fence post: An update from Mono Lake’s landbridge

Friday, April 21st, 2017 by Elin, Communications Coordinator

The temporary electrified fence protecting Mono Lake’s nesting California Gulls has been up and running for about three weeks now. After a long and snowy winter the gulls’ calls signal spring’s arrival, and it’s gratifying to know that as they build nests and lay eggs out on the islands, they are protected from coyote predation.

Gull researcher Kristie Nelson works on one of the fence sections that extends into Mono Lake. Photo by Geoff McQuilkin.

The fence stretches for about one mile across the landbridge, and is made up of five sections that overlap—an electrified long middle section, two shorter electrified sections at the ends near the water’s edge, and two passive sections at (more…)

Mono Lake featured in Greenwire

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016 by Arya, Communications Director

We love talking to folks about Mono Lake, especially people who are interested in looking at the Mono Lake story within the larger context of saline lakes. Such was the case when Mono Lake Committee Executive Director Geoffrey McQuilkin joined E&E Greenwire reporter Jeremy Jacobs for a lakeshore exploration this past April.

Jacobs is writing a series on “Dead Seas” that is worth reading to learn more about the Salton Sea and Owens Lake. For sure, you won’t want to miss the newest installment that focuses on Mono Lake. You can read the full story “Drought Threatens ‘genius’ regs that stopped L.A. water grab” here.


Click the image above to read the whole article from E&E Publishing, LLC’s Greenwire.

Enjoy! And let us know if you have any questions.

Marina Fire and road closure update, 1:00pm

Friday, June 24th, 2016 by Arya, Communications Director

The Marina Fire continues to burn just north of Lee Vining in the steep slopes above Hwy 395 along Mono Lake. Fire crews, including air tankers and helicopters are fighting the fire and appear to be making good progress, though flames can still be seen on the southern edge of the burn. Residents of Lee Vining and Mono City received a reverse-911 call with a message that is it not necessary evacuate at this time, but to be prepared. Highway 395 is still officially closed, but Caltrans is escorting cars through the area when feasible. Businesses in Lee Vining are open.


The Marina Fire as seen from Third Street in Lee Vining.


Great article about Mono Lake and the drought

Saturday, May 7th, 2016 by Robbie, Restoration Field Technician

Journalist Jane Braxton Little recently wrote a comprehensive article about Mono Lake—we recommend giving it a read. She does a great job of capturing where Mono Lake stands today in the face of California’s historic drought. Click the link to read the article Mono Lake Facing Another Crisis.

Mono Lake tufa towers are seen Monday, Nov. 15, 2004, near Lee Vining, Calif. The ancient towers, composed of calcium carbonate, were formed underwater when fresh water springs mixed with minerals in the lakewater, and became visible when lake water receded over the past 60 years due to water diversion to Los Angeles. Now, residents and the U.S. Forest Service say the Mono Lake protections are imperiled by a plan to subdivide 120 acres for luxury homes on the lake's western shore. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Photo of Pirate Ship Tufa at South Tufa from the article “Mono Lake Facing Another Crisis.” Photo by Ben Margot, Associated Press.

April 1 Mono Lake level close to critically low threshold

Friday, April 1st, 2016 by Geoff, Executive Director

This morning Mono Lake Committee staff met with Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (DWP) personnel to conduct the official annual April 1 reading of the lake level together. The consensus: Mono Lake stands at 6378.11 feet above sea level.

Mono Lake is now just 13 inches above the ecologically precipitous 6377-foot elevation at which the nesting islands become landbridged, lake salinity hits new highs, air quality problems worsen, and stream delta habitat conditions degrade.

Measuring Mono Lake's April 1 elevation

DWP’s Steve Rich and Robbie Di Paolo from the Mono Lake Committee read the lake level gauge together this morning. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

With those concerns in mind, the State Water Board rules are more nuanced this year for determining whether or not DWP can export water to Los Angeles. Not only does the lake have to be above 6377 feet for today’s measurement, it also has to be forecast to stay above 6377 every day of the coming year. (more…)

One drop and a dozen options: Sierra Watershed Progressive

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015 by Robbie, Restoration Field Technician

This is a follow-up post to the “One drop, a dozen options” article in the Summer 2015 Mono Lake Newsletter. The article mentions longtime Mono Lake Committee member Regina Hirsch and her business Sierra Watershed Progressive with respect to the greywater system she helped us create in 2012. But there are a ton of awesome projects that Regina and Sierra Watershed Progressive have tackled and I wanted to highlight two of them here: (more…)

Mother Nature smiles on Mono Lake

Friday, May 8th, 2015 by Arya, Communications Director

The numbers are in: 14 inches of snow and 2.07 inches of water in the last 24 hours! It’s looking like the most precipitation in California, and it’s safe to say that this kind of precipitation in May is off the charts.

Mono Lake Committee consulting hydrologist Peter Vorster is literally jumping with joy: “In year four of this drought, it sure feels like Mother Nature is smiling down on Mono Lake right now.”


Geoff and Jess carefully pour the melted snow gauge water into the measuring tube.


There was too much water for our measuring tube so we split it up and combined the readings for a total of 2.07 inches of water from the storm. Photos by Arya Degenhardt.

Understatement of the year: we needed this.

Lisa is down at the lake measuring the level right now—we’re dying to know if (more…)

Getting to 25%

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015 by Arya, Communications Director

In a move that made national news, yesterday Governor Jerry Brown announced the first mandatory water restrictions in California history, as the April 1st snow surveys currently being compiled are tallying the lowest-ever snowpack on record. Under Brown’s order, the California Water Resources Control Board will implement mandatory restrictions to reduce water use by 25%.

Graphic courtesy of GOOD.

See how much water use hides in your daily life with this clever infographic at Graphic courtesy of GOOD.

It’s no surprise that there are a wide range of opinions about the drought, cutbacks, and even water conservation, but Brown’s announcement still sends an important message: we’re all in this together, and we all have a role to play in stepping it up when it comes to water conservation.

What are your favorite water conservation resources? We’d love to know.

Here are some of the Mono Lake Committee staff’s favorites: (more…)

April 1 lake level means reduced water exports to LA, more protection for Mono Lake

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015 by Geoff, Executive Director

This morning Mono Lake Committee staff met with Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (DWP) personnel to conduct the official annual April 1 reading of the lake level together. The consensus: Mono Lake stands at 6379.01 feet above sea level.

DWP's Brian Norris and Greg Reis from the Mono Lake Committee read the lake level gauge together this morning. Photo by Elin Ljung.

DWP’s Brian Norris and Greg Reis from the Mono Lake Committee read the lake level gauge together this morning. Photo by Elin Ljung.

The lake has declined to a level at which water exports to Los Angeles are, by the terms of the State Water Board’s rules, automatically reduced by 70%. DWP will be limited to 4,500 acre-feet of water export, a lake-protecting restriction that no one, until recently, thought would ever be activated again. It was a solemn, though not unexpected outcome, given that California’s drought is entering its fourth year and the Mono Lake watershed is officially classified as being under “exceptional” drought. (more…)

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