Friday February 17, 2023

Courthouse News Service

California authorities face renewed pressure to preserve the valuable salty waters of the Mono Lake — as despite recent rainfall, a historic drought and demands from the Los Angeles area have depleted it.

In a workshop Wednesday, the state Water Resources Control Board discussed Mono Lake’s current conditions amid the impacts of severe drought and ongoing diversions.

Mono Lake is an ancient, naturally saline lake at the eastern edge of the Sierra Nevada, with a surface area of 70 square miles. It is fed by several rivers and hosts a unique ecosystem and critical habitat for millions of migratory birds. That includes California gulls, whose nesting population on lake islands has steadily declined for the last 40 years due to low water levels, increasing coyote populations and human interference. 

The Mono Lake Committee sent a letter in December urging the board to temporarily restrict the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power diversions from the lake’s rivers until the water level reaches 6,384 feet, to prevent predators from accessing a land bridge and threatening nesting gulls. The group also wants the state to provide a drought buffer and reduce salinity levels. 

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