As the Owens Valley scrambles for some kind of protection in the apparent drought, Mono Lake protectors have some good news – definite terms in a State Water License for the Department of Water and Power.
Geoff McQuilkin, Executive Director of the Mono Lake Committee, said the license spells out that both sides can read the lake level and accordingly the license tells an allowed amount of water export for DWP. Said McQuilkin, “There is no room for debate. This has always been followed.”
In spite of protections, the Mono Lake Director called the drought “depressing.” He said the level of Mono Lake is going down. Said McQuilkin, “This will be the third year of loss.” He said the lake now sits at 6380.5 feet above sea level. According to the license, DWP water exports are cut back when the lake level goes below 6380 feet.
McQuilkin said if the lake level is above 6380 feet, DWP can export 16,000 acre feet for the year. If the level goes below that, the export drops to 4,500 acre feet. The goal of a State Order and reduced exports from the Mono Basin is a long-term average lake level of 6392 feet. McQuilkin said the Committee has not lost faith. He said they see the level go up in wet years.
The recently signed agreement between DWP and the Committee says DWP will make more environmental improvements in the basin and after that is done will get a one-time extra 12,000 acre feet of water. McQuilkin said that’s four or five years out.
What if DWP declared a municipal emergency and tried to break the water license? McQuilkin said he thinks they would be unsuccessful. He said, “We would certainly oppose it. That would enter a risk zone and air quality issues.”