Tioga Lodge removes trees, and a road appears on state land.
Last week, several Lee Vining locals observed an excavator building a road from the Tioga Lodge property, through the Mono Lake South Tufa State Reserve, to the shoreline of Mono Lake.
On Tuesday, October 18, staff from the Mono Lake Committee, including Executive Director Geoff McQuilkin, decided to investigate. “Many of us go past there on our way to work, and we like to keep an eye on things down by the lake,” said McQuilkin this week. The private property line between the Tioga Lodge property and the State Reserve is an elevation marker, as the reserve protects the historic lake bed.
McQuilkin inquired with Mono County’s Planning Division, who reported they had no record of a permit for grading on the Tioga Lodge property and issued a Cease and Desist Order to the property owner, Dr. Gloria Ma, on Wednesday, October 19.
Employees from the Mono Lake Committee reported that, as of last week, the excavator had cleared three acres of willows and vegetation on the State Reserve. The Mono Lake Committee also reported that Post Office Creek, a stream that runs through the Tioga Lodge property, through the State Reserve, and into Mono Lake, had been diverted to form a standing pond.
Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board (LWB) issued a Cleanup and Abatement Order to Ma on October 21. That order cites Ma for disturbing earthen materials in a manner that contaminates protected surface water and wetlands, and for diverting surface water from Post Office Creek. It requires that Ma restore Post Office Creek to its original channel by October 28 and implement erosion control on the creek by November 4. The Order also allows the water board to bill Ma for the cost of cleanup and the investigation.
Andrew Hughan, Public Information Officer for California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), said CDFW is also investigating the damage to the protected ecosystem through which the road was graded.
“I think that the road construction distracted everyone. It’s a very visible site, but it’s been very industrial down there since the fire,” said Lee Vining local Katie Bellomo.