DNR agrees to push for legislative solution to White Bear Lake’s water loss

A settlement was reached Monday in a lawsuit over the low water levels in White Bear Lake, which means the state Department of Natural Resources will support legislation to help improve the situation.

The White Bear Lake Restoration Association and White Bear Lake Homeowner’s Association, concerned about the lake’s water loss, claimed the DNR was not aggressive enough in finding solutions and sued the state agency two years ago.

Although there have been many cyclical changes in the lake’s water levels over the years, and it did improve a bit in the past year, those worried about the levels believe that groundwater pumping for use by cities around the area are depleting the aquifers that support the lake level.

Many property owners around the lake have seen the water level drop so far that they now have hundreds of feet of dry lake bed.

Today’s settlement means the DNR will support legislation that will fund feasibility and possibly, the ultimate construction, of a system that could supply Mississippi River for those nearby communities — Vadnais Heights, White Bear Lake, White Bear Township, Mahtomedi, Shoreview, and North St. Paul.

The lake groups said, that as part of the proposed settlement:

The DNR also will set a protective elevation for White Bear Lake and consider the cumulative impact of its permitting decisions on the Lake. The DNR will initiate implementation of the North and East Groundwater Management Area plan in 2015 and will work with local communities to achieve increased water conservation. 

Ramsey County Judge Margaret Marrinan must still review the settlement.

The firm of attorney Mike Ciresi, whose family owned a liquor store in White Bear Lake, represented the White Bear Lake Restoration Association in the matter. Ciresi said in a statement Monday:

“This settlement is the first step in restoring White Bear Lake’s invaluable ecosystem and its natural, recreational, scenic and aesthetic value. By utilizing a sustainable water source and protecting the lake’s water level, people and businesses in the region of White Bear Lake will have a reliable source of water, while protecting one of our most precious natural resources.”

The Stinson Leonard Street law firm represented the homeowners’ association. Legal services were provided at no charge and the two nonprofit groups raised money to pay for research and experts who buoyed their positions.

James Markoe, a member of the homeowner’s association, called it a “first significant step toward lake restoration,’ and said: “We are fortunate to be represented by those who understand completely the recreational, environmental and cultural significance of White Bear Lake.”

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