Worldwide Support for Mono Lake at State Water Board Workshop from Los Angeles to Argentina
Hundreds of Organizations and Individuals from Around the Globe Called on the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) to Stop Depleting Mono Lake and Instead Seek Urban Conservation Solutions
On February 15, in an overwhelming show of support for Mono Lake and its future, hundreds of diverse community-based organizations, environmental groups, CA State and local agencies from South Los Angeles to Mar Chiquita, Argentina outlined a clear, factual case to protect Mono Lake and build a sustainable, conservation-based water strategy for Los Angeles. At the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) workshop, supportive testimony was received from such diverse organizations as the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Mothers of East Los Angeles, the Mono Lake Kutzadika Tribe, Tree People, East Yard Communities for Justice, the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, and Communities for a Better Environment.
“The current low lake crisis shows that quick action is needed to achieve the balanced State Water Board protections established 30 years ago. Mono Lake is only 25% of the way to the required healthy lake level, yet LADWP continues to divert water away from the lake.” said Geoff McQuilkin, Executive Director of the Mono Lake Committee, “For more than a year, we have been asking LADWP to meet and try to find logical solutions such as urban conservation, direct install and other options. Unfortunately, our calls have gone unanswered.”
70+ speakers, spoke passionately for nearly 5 hours in a historic show of support for this ecologically embattled natural resource. Among the many state and local agencies and groups, there was unanimous agreement that LADWP should focus its infinite resources on increasing urban conservation efforts that would more than equal the amount of water that is diverted each year from the lake. To date the SWRCB has also received over 600+ written comments as part of public record.
State and Local Agency Management and Scientists Highlighted Air Quality and Habitat Risks
State and federal management air and water quality agencies joined the call for State Water Board action, noting that management plans to remedy massive dust storms and maintain the health of public parks and lands all require the lake to be 13 vertical feet higher than it is today. Scientists and organizers also called in to speak from Mar Chiquita in Argentina and Great Salt Lake in Utah, two saline lakes that, along with Mono Lake, provide crucial habitat for birds that migrate along the Pacific Flyway. Saving Mono Lake and other saline lakes is of hemispheric importance.
Strong Environmental Justice Message Delivered by Tribal Groups, Los Angeles Community, Environmental and Faith Leaders
The Mono Lake Kutzadika’a Tribe called for full consultation with the Tribe and highlighted how providing more water for Mono Lake is necessary to begin healing extensive damage to cultural resources. Tribe Vice Chair Dean Vice Chair Dean Tonnena eloquently summed up the stakes when he said, “decisions regarding Mono Lake have impacts that span generations into the future.”
Many other groups representing marginalized communities in the Los Angeles area spoke out, including Elsa Lopez, whose group Mothers of East Los Angeles – Santa Isabel conducted some of the first direct-install water conservation work in LA in the 1980s. Andy Lipkis, founder of TreePeople, reminded the Board of the vast creative water conservation potential as yet untapped in Southern California. Communities for a Better Environment spoke passionately about Mono Lake’s importance to the people of Los Angeles and the need for LADWP to listen to residents.
Longtime community organizers, East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice wrote in support of swift State Water Board protective action. “In taking this emergency action, we believe the SWRCB can unite existing and support new community water plans that transition away from water stealing and towards sustainable local water ecosystems."
Walter Contreras, of CLUE and the Black and Brown Coalition stated: “Los Angeles needs to learn how to conserve water. If not, we will continue to decimate the natural world and expose already-vulnerable communities to yet another top-of-mind stressor. “
The California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce weighted in on the economic burden. “Water exports from Mono Lake are a quick fix to California’s water problem. We need long-term, reliable solutions. This issue is not simply an environmental problem; it is an economic issue that will affect marginalized communities.”
Funding Conservation Efforts Can Help Resolve the Emergency
The water LADWP diverts from Mono Lake is less than 1% of the City’s annual supply. Speakers at the workshop highlighted that sustainable local supply projects such as stormwater capture, cisterns, and rain gardens are proven strategies that can easily offset Mono Lake diversions until the lake rises to a healthy level.
“Millions of dollars of state and federal funding are available to support implementation of these projects in Los Angeles. LADWP, however, said it believes there are no conditions of concern at the lake, and it plans to fight to continue its water diversions.” stated Geoff McQuilkin.
The public can continue to submit written comments to MonoLake@waterboards.ca.gov until March 14th.
ABOUT MONO LAKE. Mono Lake is an extraordinary ecosystem located 350 miles north of Los Angeles, east of Yosemite National Park and at the northernmost end of the Los Angeles Aqueduct. The million-year-old lake is one of the nation’s most important shorebird habitats, internationally recognized as an essential stop for millions of migratory and nesting birds on the Pacific Flyway.
This piece was initially published on PR Newswire.