DNR discusses White Bear Lake water woes with county board

WashCo_logoThe Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) presented its next steps in determining a groundwater management area for White Bear Lake to the Washington County Board of Commissioners Tuesday.

The eastern half of White Bear Lake is located in Washington County bordering Dellwood, Mahtomedi and Birchwood Village and the lake has seen water levels drop about five feet in previous years. The DNR is “working in earnest” to create a boundary for a groundwater management area that will help reduce the effects of the lake’s falling water levels.

Previously, the DNR worked with the belief that water was abundant in the metropolitan area, but is now moving toward the idea of scarcity, according to Jason Moeckel, a section manager of the DNR’s Division of Ecological and Water Resources.

“What we’re facing in the Twin Cities is a groundwater crisis,” he said.

Even if White Bear Lake’s declining water levels aren’t making a major difference in the aquifer, many surface water features are affected, including trout streams, fens, lakes, rivers and streams, according to Paul Putzier, a DNR hydro-geologist.

For many metropolitan area residents, the groundwater crisis is “slow moving,” but for White Bear Lake residents, it is an immediate concern. In June, the White Bear Lake Conservation District asked the DNR to put a groundwater management area around the lake, so the DNR’s next step is to create the groundwater management area boundary. Putzier said the DNR wants to “get as much input as we can,” such as meeting with watershed districts and city and county governments.

Putzier said there are many types of boundaries the DNR wants to incorporate into the groundwater management area. The hydro-geologic boundary is the most obvious, according to Putzier, and includes the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers, which are the boundary rivers around the aquafer.

The DNR also wants to looks at major water use locations as well as what surface water features and resources are of most important concern, Putzier said. He also explained a political boundary, which includes city and county lines, and working together with watershed districts.

But Commissioners Gary Kriesel and Fran Miron expressed their concerns about several points. Both were concerned about how water level losses affect property values around White Bear Lake, and Miron pointed out the recurring issues of White Bear Lake and the fact that the DNR has been pumping water into the lake “for years.”

“The problem we’re experiencing with White Bear Lake is not a new one,” Miron said. “It certainly concerns all of us as commissioners.”

Miron also mentioned how the county has reduced the watershed area of White Bear Lake over the years through the establishment of infiltration and rain gardens.
The DNR officials said the agency wants to decide on a groundwater management area boundary within the next several months.

Contact Amanda White at amanda.white@ecm-inc.com

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