CalTrout’s Eastern Sierra Region Update

Our Eastern Sierra region manager (Mark Drew) has been busy working on the typically byzantine water projects common to the area. Drawn-out slogs through dense, technical water issues don’t always grab headlines, but the work typically impacts the long-term health of California’s fisheries.

Here’s an update on some of the bigger issues.

Wrapping Up A Couple Decades Of Work on Mono Basin

Way back in the 1980s (and 1990s), a series of court decisions initiated a restoration program for the main tributaries to Mono Lake. During the last year we’ve been follow through on what began decades ago — a collaborative process that is supposed to lead to lasting, healthy fisheries in the Mono Basin. (For the legal eagles among you, the key outcomes were Decision 1631 and Restoration Orders 98-05 & 98-07.)

At issue are the fisheries in Rush, Walker, Lee-Vining & Parker Creeks, and the enormous amount of research done in the interest of restoring them.

“What we’re hoping to do with this process is to bring closure to a couple decades worth of effort to restore Mono Basin — a collaborative process having to do with the long-term flow recommendations put forth by the state-appointed stream scientists” said CalTrout’s Mark Drew.

“For the last year, we’ve been trying to finish up an agreement as to how to implement the recommended flows and create long-term monitoring to protect these waters and fisheries.”

“It’s sobering to think this process began more than a quarter century ago,” Drew added.

Land use patterns are very different now than they were when the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (DW&P) began altering the region’s hydrology, and the fish species of interest to fly fishermen aren’t native, yet CalTrout remains on the forefront of the goal to restore ecological health of the Mono Basin.

Mammoth Creek Water Fight

In a complex legal battle, the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (DW&P) has thrown a monkey wrench into the Mammoth Water District’s recently completed EIR and urban water management plan. The EIR is the result of a long, intensive collaborative process that CalTrout was integrally involved with and that resulted in the completed settlement agreement between the District & CA DFG.

DW&P contends their water rights would be impacted if the plans are implemented. (In simple terms, the DW&P has senior water rights for water entering Mammoth Creek above the Mammoth Water District, and says that their water right will be impacted by the flows proscribed in the EIR document.)

Opponents of the DW&P lawsuits say that DW&P’s upstream water sources account for approximately 1% of the total Mammoth Creek flow and won’t be a problem, while DW&P counters the district is underestimating the amount of water needed to meet growth demands over the next decade.

CalTrout is hopeful some kind of negotiated compromise will be possible. Our goal over the 15+ year process of completing the EIR was to be sure enough water was in the creek for fisheries, and we feel the settlement agreement and the EIR should move forward.

“We hope to maintain the integrity of the settlement agreement,” said Mark Drew, “And feel strongly the agreement is sound, supports fisheries, and doesn’t affect DWP’s ability to withdraw water.”

CalTrout Involved In Inyo National Forest Management Plan

The Inyo National Forest is embarking on a once-in-a-generation revision of its management plan, and CalTrout is there to make sure the USFS incorporates sound management of aquatic resources.

The Inyo National Forest includes portions of the Golden Trout Wilderness — a critical habitat for California’s state fish.

In the coming months, the Inyo NF will be engaging with interested stakeholders to embark on what is expected to be a three year process, the outcome being a revised management plan that will guide the Forest for the next decade or more. Critical to the revision process is to make sure robust and objective science guides decision making and that due consideration for the needs of aquatic flora and fauna is given.