Restoring A Natural Community Resource


The Complaint

2013 USGS Report: Groundwater and Surface Water Interactions near WBL through 2011

News Release: No Removal of Water from WBL is Allowed Until Further Notice dated May 22, 2007

MN DNR Study on Lake Ground Water Interaction at WBL dated June, 1998

WBL Conservation District Ordinance NO 6 dated April 24, 1990

Internal Email between employees of the MN DNR dated July 28, 2009

Email at the MN DNR: ‘WBL pumping for lawn watering’ dated August 24, 2009

Email between the DNR and Met Council dated July 1, 2010

Email string between the MPCA and the DNR dated February 17, 2012

WBL Low Water Issue: DNR Talking Points dated October 9, 2012

Metro Council Article dated August 14, 2013

Order Denying Motion To Dismiss

Internal Memo re model evaluation of surface water use dated October 14, 2013

Metro Council Study dated 2014

Metro Council’s Progress Report on Water Supply Planning dated January, 2014

Metro Council presentation titled ‘Our Water, Our Future: Restoring the Balance’

Motion for Summary Judment denied dated August 29, 2014

Settlement Agreement

Press Release dated December 1, 2014


At present, White Bear Lake is one of the largest, deepest, and cleanest lakes in the Twin Cities area. Unfortunately, it is now experiencing the lowest water levels ever recorded and the levels consistently continue to decline. Historically, fluctuation in water levels has correlated generally to levels of precipitation. Thus, in periods of low precipitation the lake water level drops and in periods of high precipitation the lake water level rises. Over the last 80 years, there were only two instances when the lake reached levels near where they are today. In both cases, the drop in water level occurred during drought conditions. Over the past decade, water levels have steadily declined despite precipitation levels remaining at or near a 30-year average.

On November 25, 2012 White Bear Lake water levels reached an historic record low of 919.17 feet, which is more than 5 feet below the ordinary high water level of 924.89 feet according to data from the DNR. (See Minnesota DNR White Bear Lake water level report here.)  And thus, White Bear Lake now has many exposed patches of lakebed that look more like swamp land than open waters and recreational beaches. The low water levels have had a negative impact on lake business owners, recreational visitors, and lake home owners. In addition, the beach operated by Ramsey County has been closed since at least 2009 because the water has receeded so far that there are now dangerous drop off zones.

Earlier this year, the United States Geological Survey (USGS), a federal government agency that provides impartial information on the health of ecosystems and the environment, made a presentation to the White Bear Lake Conservation District Board regarding a recent study of White Bear Lake. The USGS examined the potential causes of the water level decline, and completed a study on the interaction between groundwater and surface water in the area around White Bear Lake. This study acknowledged that precipitation levels alone could not account for the current low lake water levels. It concluded that one of the primary causes of the decline is increased high-capacity groundwater pumping.

In an effort to find a natural solution to restore the lake to average levels, the WBLRA has filed a lawsuit against the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) under the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act (MERA). To view the lawsuit, please click here.

Since the filing of the lawsuit, the DNR filed a Motion To Dismiss. The presiding judge ruled to deny the Motion To Dismiss on September 11, 2013. To view the Order, please click here.

The White Bear Lake Restoration Association’s suit against the Minnesota DNR and its Commissioner is progressing.  The parties have now completed the exchange of pretrial discovery, including the reports of experts. In particular,  WBLRA expert Stu Grubb’s analysis of the declining lake level causes has been widely circulated. One of several proposed remedies – direct augmentation with filtered water piped from Vadnais Lake – is currently being discussed at the Legislature.  The WBLRA also submitted an expert report of limnologist Meghan Jacobson detailing the harm to the lake and aquifer caused by the DNR’s actions.  These expert reports are critical to the chances for success of this lawsuit.  The parties to the suit have been engaged in mediation under the direction of former Minnesota Supreme Court Justice James Gilbert. The mediation is ongoing.  Because the potential success of that process is highly uncertain we are preparing the briefs in support of the WBLRA’s motion for summary judgment, scheduled to be argued on May 7th.  We will also be opposing the DNR’s summary judgment motion at that time.  If the case is not resolved by mediation or on summary judgment, the case will go to trial starting on August 18, 2014.