Mono Lake Committee
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The Mono Lake Committee (MLC) is an environmental organization based in Lee Vining, California in the United States. Its mission is to preserve Mono Lake, by reducing diversions of water from the Eastern Sierra watersheds by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP).
The Committee was founded in 1978 by David Gaines, David Winkler, and Sally Judy. In 1975, David Winkler, Jefferson Burch, and Christine Weigen obtained a grant, with help and encouragement from David Gaines, from the NSF to study the ecology of Mono Lake. He had found that, starting in 1941, LADWP's diversions of water from Mono Lake's inflow creeks had caused it to lose half its volume and double its salinity. These changes, Gaines, reported, reduced the ability of the lake to support its saline ecosystem.
Mono Lake is an important habitat for migratory birds (including the California gull). The lowering of the water level endangered the bird nesting grounds on Negit Island in the middle of the lake: a land bridge had formed, which allowed predators to attack the bird nests.
In 1979, the MLC, along with the Audubon Society filed suit in Mono County, California Superior Court, claiming that LADWP's water diversions violated the public trust doctrine: that all navigable water must be managed for the benefit of everyone. In 1983, MLC won the argument in front of the California Supreme Court, who directed that the public trust doctrine overrides prior water rights.
Eventually, multiple litigations were adjudicated in 1994, by the California State Water Resources Control Board. In that ruling, LADWP was required to let enough water into Mono Lake to raise the lake level 20 feet (6.1 m) above the then-current level of 25 feet (7.6 m) below the 1941 level. As of 2004, the water level in Mono Lake has risen 12 ft (3.7m) of the required 20 feet (6.1 m). Los Angeles made up for the lost water through state-funded conservation and recycling projects.