DNR sued over White Bear Lake water levels

White Bear Lake
The lake bottom is exposed as water levels recede on White Bear Lake in White Bear Lake, Minn., on Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012. A group of White Bear Lake residents and business owners are suing the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources claiming the agency's practices have contributed to falling levels at the lake north of St. Paul. In the background is Tally's Dockside bar.
AP Photo/The St. Paul Pioneer Press, Ben Garvin

The White Bear Lake Restoration Association is suing the DNR over lake levels, saying that nearby cities were allowed to pump too much water from the aquifer underlying the lake.

The low water levels are ruining traditional activities on the lake, and putting natural systems at risk, said the group's attorney, Jan Conlin of Robins, Kaplan, Miller and Ciresi.

"Our concern is that if this goes on couple more years [and] people are sitting around not doing anything, it'd be very difficult to replenish the lake and bring it back to the regional asset that we've enjoyed," Conlin said.

The group refers to a U.S. Geological Survey study that blames the popular lake's historically low levels on heavy pumping from the underlying Prairie du Chien-Jordan aquifer by cities north of the lake. Excessive pumping, rather than lack of rainfall, is causing the low levels, the study says.

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The lawsuit is filed in Ramsey County Court and asks the DNR to find alternate sources of water for cities, enforce conservation measures, and divert water from the Mississippi River to restore the lake and the aquifer.

The DNR said it needs to study the lawsuit before commenting.

"The lake is at its lowest recorded level ever and if this continues it will be well below its lowest level ever," Conlin said. "You've got public beaches that are closed and have been closed now for some time. You've got ecosystems within the lake that are in danger of being fundamentally and permanently altered."

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