Tuesday, June 10, 2008


The above is a satellite image of Mono Lake, the largest salt water lake in California. It distinctly shows the 3 islands, Pahoa (largest), Negit (the black one) and Gaines (the newest, a result of falling lake levels and named after Mono activist David Gaines), that make the lake a major migratory bird nesting hot spot. The lake resides just to the right of Yosemite and in a volcanically active section of the state.

I grew up nearly biologically connected to the lake, as my mother worked for the Mono Lake Committee (MLC). I have floated in it's ridiculously salty water. Played for countless hours on it's shores and napped in the back of the visitors center during board meetings. Strangely after all of that, this was my first trip in nearly 20 years back to the lake. I was shocked at how healthy the ecosystem of the area and the lake itself looked.

The last time I was at the lake, it was dying. The DWP was diverting water from its tributary watershed (to quench Los Angeles' thirst) at an alarming rate. The MLC was desperately trying to save this unique ecosystem - but it was looking like a loosing battle. Then in 1994 a landmark decision was made that began to return water to the lake. Slowly Mono is rising. Each year the MLC continues the fight and hopes for good snow pack. After all snow is the only thing that feeds the lake. But the lake could still die. The '94 decision is not a law and is nearly constantly revisited - especially in years of drought, when Los Angeles hungers for water. Like this year. In fact the lake is down 2 ft. from last year. Thus Mono's recovery continues but is not certain.

But I am hopeful that as we go green, conservation will become our prevailing frame of mind. I rejoined the MLC on this trip and I invite all of my readers to research the committee and perhaps decide to join for themselves. It is a worthy cause if there ever was one.

And in case anyone still believes that a lake of this size cannot die, I invite them to Owens Lake. Or rather the dusty bed where the lake used to reside.

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