- Associated Press - Monday, December 1, 2014

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has settled a lawsuit over declining water levels in White Bear Lake, the agency said Monday.

The White Bear Lake Restoration Association and the White Bear Lake Homeowners Association sued the DNR two years ago, saying the agency had allowed nearby cities to pump too much groundwater from the aquifer connected to the lake.

The settlement stops litigation for as many as three years. Meanwhile, the DNR will support efforts to move 13 communities from using groundwater to using surface water from the Mississippi River. But it’s not clear when that will happen. The DNR said moving the first six communities would cost as much as $230 million, and no one has committed to paying.

As part of the settlement, the DNR will support legislative proposals to fund the feasibility, design and construction of a system connecting six nearby cities to surface water to relieve pressure on the Prairie du Chien-Jordan Aquifer, Minnesota Public Radio News reported (https://bit.ly/1B6ss7m ). The lawsuit will not be dismissed until such a system is in place, attorneys for the homeowners said in a statement.

“This settlement is the first step in restoring White Bear Lake’s invaluable ecosystem and its natural, recreational, scenic and aesthetic value,” said attorney Michael Ciresi, whose firm represented the plaintiffs.

Assistant DNR Commissioner Barb Naramore said the settlement will help advance “long-term water sustainability” in the northern and eastern Twin Cities suburbs, but she said agency officials continue to disagree with the plaintiffs on what led to the lake’s decline.

“We believe there are other causes for the low lake levels in recent years, and would note that those levels are within the historic range of variation recorded at White Bear Lake,” Naramore said in a statement.

The DNR also agreed to set a minimum water level to guide regulation of new or existing groundwater permits. That wouldn’t apply until the first six communities move to surface water.

The agreement still needs a Ramsey County judge’s approval.

“This is really just the beginning of our effort,” Katie Crosby Lehmann, an attorney for the plaintiffs, told MPR. “We’re hopeful the state will invest in water and supplying a sustainable water source.”

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Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, https://www.mprnews.org


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