Wednesday, October 24, 2012

An Energy Bridge of Water Links Mammoth Lakes to Los Angeles, California

Jim McGillis at Mammoth Lakes, California, summer 2012 - Click for larger image (
An Energy Bridge of Water Links Mammoth Lakes to Los Angeles, California

In the fall of 2012, El Niño and La Niña global weather systems battled to a draw. Now it is anybody’s guess if this will be a big snow season in California’s Sierra Nevada. On Monday October 22, one of my friends sent pictures of the season’s first snowfall at Mammoth Lakes. After an extreme lack of snow at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area last winter, locals like my friend are hoping that snowstorms will visit again soon.

Mammoth Mountain, California in summer 2012 - Click for larger image ( August 2012, I visited Mammoth Lakes for the first time since the 1990s. I was surprised to see how little the core of the town had changed. Still, rampant development of the sub-alpine meadows around the edge of town looked unsustainable to me. In 2012, the town went bankrupt. At the same time, the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (LADWP) made plans to exert its Mammoth Creek water rights. As has happened several times before, Mammoth headed deeper into an economic recession.

During the winter of 2011-2012, Mammoth Lakes experienced the economic ripple effect of ski area layoffs. With the semi-permanent closure of June Mountain Ski Resort in 2012, it will take more than one great snow season for Mono County and its economy to rebound. Still, as the town of Mammoth Lakes goes, so goes Los Angeles. As a persistent western drought continues, few in Los Angeles stop to think how much of their water originates in Mono County.

The same scene as the first picture above, on October 22, 2012, with one foot of fresh snow on the ground - Click for larger image (, we spent the past fifty years moving Los Angeles to Mammoth Mountain. Now, over-development and under-supply threaten water sources for both city and town. Perhaps a good 2012 – 2013 snow season will allow us to ignore both the economic and environmental realities for yet another year. Go Sierra snow!