CalTrout Raises Awareness of Lahontan Cutthroat Trout

Check out the new interpretative panels about Lahontan cutthroat trout in the Walker Basin. CalTrout’s Eastern Sierra office just put the finishing touches on the project last week with support from the Department of Fish and Wildlife and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Next time you’re fishing the East Walker River be sure to have a look!

lctpanel LCT Kiosk 1

Mono Lake at 20 Symposium – Registration Open

Mono Lake at 20: Past, Present, and Future
November 17, 2014 in Sacramento, California  2014 marks the 20th anniversary of the State Water Resources Control Board’s landmark Decision 1631 to amend the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power’s water rights in order to protect Mono Lake and its tributary streams.CalTrout has joined the Mono Lake Committee and UC Berkeley’s Wheeler Institute for Water Law and Policy and stakeholders in the Mono Lake cases to convene a symposium to discuss where things stand after 20 years, including: What are the results of implementation of D1631? What does the future hold, especially with the recent Stream Restoration Agreement in hand? What does the decision mean for other California water rights as the State Water Board seeks to determine how best to protect public trust uses of the Delta and Central Valley rivers consistent with maintaining reliable water supplies?

Mono Lake at 20 is bringing together distinguished panelists to distill lessons learned from 20 years of concerted effort to implement the Mono Lake decisions and related efforts elsewhere.

Registration is now open, and space is limited.

This symposium will be a unique opportunity to be a part of the discussions and solutions Mono Lake has to offer for the future. Register now and be part of the solution.

Mammoth Lakes Basin Water Quality Findings Presented at SNARL

CalTrout completed a two-year study centered on water quality in the Mammoth Lakes Basin and presented its findings during the 2014 SNARL Lecture Series.  

The study focused on identifying impairments to water quality in the Mammoth Lakes Basin with an emphasis on nutrients and metals. Working with project partners, CalTrout confirmed that nutrients are not impairing water quality. However, the study did confirm the presence of mercury in both Mammoth Creek as well as soils adjacent to the historic Mill City Stamp Mill.

Read more about the study in the Mammoth Times article.

CalTrout Completes Mammoth Lakes Basin Water Quality Study

In 2012, with funding from the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board, CalTrout initiated a study in the Mammoth Lakes Basin to determine presence and extent of both nutrients and metals. After two years of research, the study found nutrients are not impacting water quality. However, the study did determine the levels of total mercury, in certain areas such as Stamp Mill, exceeded regulatory thresholds.

“Based on the data gathered thus far, I think it is prudent to conduct a more in-depth study to more accurately determine the potential scope and extent of the mercury in the Lakes Basin and particularly the Stamp Mill area,” said CalTrout Eastern Sierra Regional Manager Dr. Mark Drew.

The next step is to determine whether mercury is impacting resident fish populations and if so, determine what mitigation measures are necessary.  CalTrout may be the next Erin Brokovich, for fish anyway.

For more on the study’s findings ready The Sheet’s story here.

Job Announcement: Environmental Restoration for Walker Basin Lahontan Cutthroat Trout

California Trout and California Department of Fish & Wildlife are looking for candidates interested in conducting restoration work in the Eastern Sierra for federally threatened Lahontan cutthroat trout (LCT).


The person(s) selected will work as part of a crew on ecological restoration projects under the direction of CDFW staff. Restoration for Lahontan cutthroat trout will utilize a combination of backpack electroshocking to remove non-native brook trout and placement of temporary barriers to secure recovery waters. Other duties will include: pruning riparian vegetation to facilitate crew access to the stream; maintenance of gear; hauling materials and building a modified weir barrier; and data management. Although outdoors, surrounded by amazing vistas and working with an amazingly beautiful native trout, the work can be tiring and repetitious.

[Read more…]

Historic Mono Basin Agreement To Settle Decades Of Fighting Over Mono Lake Water

August 27, 2013

Historic Mono Basin Agreement approved by LA Dept. of Water & Power; CalTrout and Other Groups Sign Off on Water-Sharing Plan

Eastern Sierras, CA – Decades of strife over how much water could be diverted out of four key Mono Lake tributaries to the benefit of Los Angeles water users came to an end today when the Board of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) voted to approve a historic settlement agreement among LADWP, non-profit fisheries and water resources conservation organization California Trout (CalTrout), the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) and the Mono Lake Committee.

“It has taken years of challenging and complex negotiations to identify feasible options for implementing this important agreement, and we are eager to see the terms of the agreement put in to action,” noted Mark Drew, Eastern Sierra Manager for CalTrout. “Scientific rigor and analyses played an important role in helping us to figure out what kind of flows are needed, as well as how they are to be delivered, to support healthy fisheries and further restore the Mono Lake ecosystem. We are grateful to LADWP, CA Department of Fish & Wildlife and the Mono Lake Committee for working with us to come to an agreement on these complex issues.”

The settlement agreement lays out the details of a plan to implement several actions, including a significant investment in upgrading Grant Dam and the subsequent delivery of long-term flows, an extensive monitoring program, oversight and bringing to closure earlier requirements stemming from the 1994 decision and subsequent Restoration Orders from the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB).

After the landmark decision in 1994 set the stage for the restoration of the streams, in 1998, the SWRCB appointed a group of stream scientists to analyze conditions and define recommendations for restoring flows to four Mono Lake tributary creeks. After a decade of research and monitoring, in 2010 the scientists presented their long-term flow recommendations.

Once provided, LADWP had the right to contest implementation of the recommended flows. Based on an analysis of how feasible it was to implement the recommendations the LADWP objected to agreeing to implement the recommended flows. In order to resolve disagreements over this issue, CalTrout joined LADWP in making a formal request to the SWRCB to grant the parties time to engage in a facilitated negotiation process. Today’s decision by LADWP Board of Commissioners, settles the end of ongoing litigation and negotiations around Mono Basin water distributions since the early 1980s.

“Lee Vining and Rush Creeks once supported some of the finest rainbow and brown trout fisheries in California, but ongoing diversions to support urban growth in Los Angeles devastated these fish populations,” said California Trout Executive Director Jeff Thompson. “Although the conditions of these Mono Lake tributaries have improved since their low point in the early 1980s, more work needs to be done to create lasting improvements. With the settlement finally in place, Mono Lake and four of its most important tributaries will receive flows that will improve the Mono Basin fisheries and LADWP will be in compliance with important state regulations.”

LADWP’s diversions out of the Mono Basin supported an exploding urban population at the expense of the health of a unique and ancient ecosystem. The resulting dramatic environmental degradation led to a series of landmark lawsuits challenging LADWP’s water export license under Public Trust doctrine, the California Environmental Quality Act, and State Fish & Wildlife (formerly Fish & Game) regulations. California Trout was a lead plaintiff in two of the most important lawsuits leading up to the settlement now under consideration by LADWP.

“California Trout, Audubon Society, and the Mono Lake Committee were some of the earliest groups to recognize the importance of restoring and protecting the entire Mono Basin watershed. The litigation that led up to these successful negotiations played an important role not just for Mono Lake and its tributaries, but also for protecting riparian habitat throughout California,” added attorney Richard Roos-Collins, legal counsel for CalTrout.

The settlement agreement was approved by the LADWP Board at its August 27, 2013 meeting. The agreement will now be presented to the State Water Resources Control for final approval and implementation.


Forest Plan Revision is underway for the Inyo National Forest!

The Inyo National Forest is currently seeking input on the Forest Assessment topic papers. The topic papers describe current conditions and expected trends and identify information or knowledge gaps for a range of social, economic, and ecological resources, including recreation, water, timber, and rare wildlife and plant species.

Public feedback on the topic papers received by September 1st will be considered as the papers are completed and used in the development of the Assessment Report.

The Assessment Report will provide information about conditions and trends of social, economic, and ecological resources that will be used when identifying the “Need for Change” in the plan revision process. The assessment is the first phase of the plan revision process.

To learn more about the plan revision process:

Visit the Inyo National Forest planning webpage at

To provide feedback on the topic papers:

Mammoth Creek Settlement Ensures Water Flows For Fish, People

For Immediate Release – July 12, 2013

Contact – Mark Drew, California Trout


Collaborative Approach Secures Water for Residents, Adequate flows for Fish

Mammoth Lakes, Calif. – Today the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) and the Mammoth Community Water District (MCWD) announced settlement agreements in two lawsuits over water allocation in Mammoth Creek. These settlements both herald a hopeful future for fair water allocation locally, in the Eastern Sierras, as well as for urban users in the Los Angeles area.

The settlement of these lawsuits also enables a 2010 settlement agreement regarding bypass flows in Mammoth Creek to take effect. This earlier settlement agreement, among MCWD, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (formerly Fish and Game), and non-profit watershed advocacy group California Trout, ensured adequate flows in Mammoth Creek to support fisheries while also providing sufficient water supplies for area residents and businesses.

“The recent turn of events around Mammoth Creek speaks to the power of collaboration and science-based negotiations when it comes to tackling California’s complex water challenges,” said Mark Drew, California Trout’s Eastern Sierra Manager. “With these settlement agreements in place, local residents will have their water needs met and essential flows for fisheries will remain intact.”

Drew continued, “We have seen that when all parties come to the table with respect for one-another, an open mind, and an eye on the science it is possible to find a way forward that everyone can support. These settlements give us every reason to be hopeful that we might also see a similarly positive resolution around water rights challenges in the nearby Mono Basin.”


Establishing appropriate bypass flows on Mammoth Creek has been a contentious issue for decades. The Mammoth Community Water District (District) drafted an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) in 2009 to study the options for balancing the needs of people who rely on the creek’s water, recreational offerings, and the fish that depend on it for survival. Out of concern for the health of fisheries in the creek, California Trout and the Department of Fish and Wildlife engaged in litigation to secure improved flows on behalf of fish in Mammoth Creek as well as Hot Creek and the Upper Owens River, into which the creek flows.

The litigation eventually led to a science-based settlement agreement that secures sufficient flows for fisheries, initiated a Mammoth Lakes Basin fisheries enhancement fund, provides for the ongoing monitoring of groundwater extraction to ensure that in-stream flows are not negatively impacted by the practice, and requires implementation and monitoring of a comprehensive water conservation plan in the basin. The State Water Resources Control Board approved by the Final EIR and the Settlement Agreement in 2012.

Although the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power initially objected to the plan and engaged in litigation over its provisions, the recent settlement of that litigation will now allow the plan to move forward.

For more information about water allocation in the Mammoth Basin, or to learn more about the settlement process, call Mark Drew at 760-924-1008 or

Help CalTrout Produce a Short Film and Raise Awareness of the Threatened Golden Trout

While trout in general are known for their kaleidoscope of color, California’s state fish, the Golden Trout, is the most spectacularly tinted of all. Goldens drip color and shape matched only by exotic butterflies, birds and flowers. They are found in a most unlikely place; precariously perched in isolated streams of the Kern River drainage, buried beneath snow at least half the year. Their lair, the Sierra Nevada, is among the world’s most spectacular mountain ranges. Sadly, this remarkable species is threatened.”

– Craig Ballenger, California Trout

In an effort to raise awareness and subsequently protect the Golden Trout, CalTrout plans to produce a short film about this magnificent fish, its habitat and its plight. The film will air nationally to gain maximum attention.

To make this important film, we must raise $20,000 to fund the project. We have launched a campaign through Indiegogo to raise this money. To support this project* or find out more, click here:
Liquid Gold

All donations are tax deductible

More about the film

CalTrout has assembled a team of six: 2 backcountry experts (Craig Ballenger and Ted Harbour), 2 master fly fishermen, (Mikey Wier and George Revel), and 2 nationally-aired filmmakers, (Keith Brauneis and Ben Paull).

Together this group will embark on a 2-week journey from sea level to 14,000 feet and all points in between, scouring the creeks and alpine lakes of the Eastern Sierra mountain range, seeking out the various descendants and hybrids of the Golden Trout. They will examine current conditions and determine future threats to this species.

The story of the California Golden Trout will be the over arching theme that will unfold within a real life adventure story about six men’s quest to find Liquid Gold in the great American west. Filmmaker Keith Brauneis’ recent film “Enough is Enough” (produced by CalTrout) was featured in the 2012 Fly Fishing Film Tour. To see that short film, click here.
Liquid Gold

All donations are tax deductible

CalTrout Interview: Eastern Sierra/Northern Sierra Regional Manager Mark Drew

Another interview with our regional managers — this one with Eastern Sierra/Northern Sierra Regional Manager Mark Drew.


Tell us about yourself and your region.

My name is Mark Drew, and I’m the regional manager for the Eastern Sierra and Northern Sierra regions. The Eastern Sierra region stretches from Mono County to the Southern Sierras and includes a lot of popular rivers and streams like Hot Creek, the Walker River and of course the Owens River. To give you an idea of its diversity, my region includes Mt. Whitney and Death Valley — the highest and lowest places in the lower 48.

CalTrout Regional Manager Mark Drew

Eastern/Northern Sierra Manager Mark Drew

A significant portion of the region is public land managed by the US Forest Service — which includes a lot of small Sierra creeks — but it’s also a place where the water is scarce, the legal battles over it are significant, and dividing the region’s water fairly is a big challenge.

I’m also managing the Northern Sierra region, where we’re focused on a whole different set of issues.

I formerly worked for The Nature Conservancy in the Caribbean, and hold a PhD in Forestry and Resource Conservation.

Let’s talk about the critical issues facing you in the Eastern Sierra.

Our biggest challenge is the fair use of water resources.

The Eastern Sierra region is unique; water is scarce and much of it is exported, which does not help the fisheries. Nor are the legal issues simple. In some instances, we’re still implementing stream flows stemming from court decisions CalTrout won more than 20 years ago.

Given the complexity of water issues, the best way to shape water use policy is to be in on the planning process. That’s why we’re part of a Mammoth Lakes Basin water quality study that will help determine the overall water quality for key fisheries like Hot Creek and the Owens River.

We also played a key role in writing the fisheries and aquatic management sections of National Forests In The Sierra Nevada: A Conservation Strategy. This document will help guide the land-use planning process that our national forests undergo every 15 or twenty years. Now we have the ability to shape fisheries and aquatic management) on a forest-wide basis.

I’m also proud to say we led the creation of the Inyo-Mono Integrated Regional Water Management Plan (ED: IRWMP) in 2008. The Inyo-Mono IRWMP has become a model of the regional approach to water use, and it now encompasses 11% of the state.

In the Northern Sierra region, Lahontan Cutthroat recovery is the critical challenge. That will continue to happen on a stream by stream basis. Invasive species are also an issue, especially in Lake Tahoe.

What are the long-term issues facing your region?

The long-term issues are probably the same issues we’re dealing with right now — protracted fights over scarce water resources. In the next two decades, forest planning will become a big issue, which is why we’re investing so much time being part of the National Forest planning process, which will affect not just fishing, but grazing, fire fighting, meadow restoration, water management, etc.

I’m optimistic that some of the issues we’re dealing with now will have been resolved in a decade.

Tell us about your favorite place in your region.

Just one? I spend a lot of time in the outdoors, so a lot of the Eastern Sierra seems special to me. The East and West Walker, Kern Plateau’s Golden Trout, and the Devil’s Postpile are all places I’d visit in a heartbeat.

They’re beautiful and very special, even if you don’t fish.