Judge: DNR allowed over-pumping of White Bear Lake's aquifer

Receding water levels
Docks extend into White Bear Lake, where water levels have steadily decreased over the last decade, in White Bear Lake, Minn.
Jeffrey Thompson | MPR News 2011

A Ramsey County judge Wednesday issued a stinging rebuke to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources over its management of White Bear Lake.

The east metro lake dropped to a record low in 2013, prompting a lawsuit by citizens' groups. They argued the over-pumping of groundwater from an aquifer connected to the lake was to blame.

Judge Margaret Marrinan agreed. Among other things, she ordered the DNR to review all groundwater permits within five miles of White Bear Lake to determine whether pumping is sustainable.

She also said the DNR must enforce a residential lawn watering ban when the lake drops below a certain level, and require well owners to have contingency plans for switching to surface water.

Marrinan notes that heavy rain this year has raised lake levels, but that doesn't change the fact that groundwater pumping still has a negative long-term impact.

The DNR released a statement saying it was surprised and disappointed in the judge's order.

"It will take some time for us to complete our review of the 140-page opinion and to understand the basis for, and the implications of, the ruling, including any possible next steps," the statement read. "The DNR remains committed to the science-based use of its authorities and resources to achieve sustainable water management in the North and East Metro and throughout Minnesota."

More water reporting from MPR News:• Ground Level project: Beneath the Surface• May 2014: New system for DNR to track water permits• April 2014: Unchecked irrigation threatens to sap Minnesota groundwater