A hearing room with people seated in a semicircular room with reporters with large video cameras and a witness at the witness stand in front of a map display with Mono Lake on it.

Thirty years since Decision 1631 “saved” Mono Lake

“Today we saved Mono Lake,” announced California State Water Resources Control Board member Marc Del Piero back in 1994 upon the unanimous approval of Decision 1631, which established the mandate to protect Mono Lake at the 6,392-foot level.

We are celebrating the 30th anniversary of that decision throughout 2024. Its consequences have been tremendous. Without the limitations D1631 placed on DWP’s excessive water diversions, stream habitats and fisheries would be gone, and Mono Lake would have plummeted in level to near 6,335 feet today, raising lake salinity beyond the tolerance of the brine shrimp and alkali flies at the core of the ecosystem and ending the lake’s vital role in the lives of millions of nesting and migratory birds.

On the other hand, Mono Lake has yet to recover to the sustainable level required in D1631. The Mono Lake Committee has always viewed D1631 as a promise written on a piece of paper. True success for Mono Lake comes when the decision’s expectations become landscape realities, with a thriving ecosystem, safe bird habitat, clean air, and secure future.

Today the promise is unfulfilled. We will celebrate the anniversary of the visionary decision this year by reaffirming our commitment to implementing the protections promised in D1631. It’s a celebration, and an effort, that requires the loud and clear voices of all of us who care for Mono Lake.

This post was also published as an article in the Winter & Spring 2024 Mono Lake Newsletter. Top photo from the Mono Lake Committee archive.