ST. PAUL, Minn. (CN) - Minnesota is ruining White Bear Lake, a favorite haunt for Twin Cities residents, by letting nearby cities pump its aquifer dry, an environmental group claims in court.
The White Bear Lake Restoration Association sued the Minnesota Department of National Resources in Ramsey County Court.
White Bear Lake is one of the largest and deepest lakes in the Twin Cities area.
The group claims the state has nearly doubled water allocation permits to nearby cities, straining groundwater resources in the Prairie du Chien-Jordan aquifer and changing the very nature of White Bear Lake.
"In fact, the beach at White Bear Lake County Park, which is operated by Ramsey County, has been closed since at least 2009 because the water receded more than 50 years from what used to be the shoreline and now abuts a dangerous drop-off zone," the complaint states.
Since 2000, the state "has authorized, on average, a 98 percent increase in municipal water appropriations permits among a number of cities near White Bear Lake," the complaint states.
Nearly 6 billion gallons were pumped from underground in 2006, more than twice as much as was withdrawn in 1980, according to the complaint. The lake now is 5 feet below its historic average level, and the dwindling water supply will concentrate the pollution and change the lake habitat, the group says.
The "increased water appropriations authorized by the DNR and the DNR Commissioner have resulted in the unnatural depletion of both White Bear Lake and the Prairie du Chien-Jordan aquifer within the area of hydrologic influence around the lake," the complaint states.
Part of the problem is simple population growth. The Population of municipalities on or near White Bear Lake increased by 39 percent from 2000 to 2010, according to the complaint.
Water planners generally estimate that one household uses 1 acre-foot of water per year: enough water to cover 1 acre a foot deep - about 326,000 gallons.
A recent U.S. Geological Survey concluded that the water elevation decline in White Bear Lake "reflects the declining waters levels in the Prairie du Chien-Jordan aquifer, with increases in groundwater withdrawals from the aquifer a likely cause for both water-level declines," according to the complaint.
The group wants the state prohibited from permitting high-capacity water appropriations from the Prairie du Chien-Jordan aquifer that cause water levels in White Bear Lake to decline below the elevation of 923.5 feet.
The lake reached its lowest historical level ever this week, 919.17 feet, according to the complaint.
The group is represented by Jan Conlin with Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi.