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Record rain doesn't do enough for White Bear Lake's water level

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While many of Minnesota's lakes are still full-to-brimming-over after the record rainfall in June, water levels in one of the most storied bodies of water in the state remain low.

The Pioneer Press reports White Bear Lake in the east metro is still so low that one of the lake's beaches is closed to swimmers, and rocks can bash boat bottoms as they attempt to navigate the 2,500-acre lake.

White Bear Lake City Engineer Mark Burch showed the newspaper a chart that tracked lake level over the past 90 years. It indicates the water level is up 2 feet since last fall, but remains 2.7 feet lower than "ordinary high water."

"People are concerned because they can't use the lake," Burch said.

In recent years, weeds have clogged the shoreline, docks and boat lifts have been left high and dry and homeowners with lakeshore homes have seen their property values dwindle along with the water. One of the metro's largest and deepest lakes, White Bear Lake began receding several years ago, reaching a record low in 2010 when it was about 6 feet below normal.

Department of Natural Resources records show the highest recorded level was 926.7 feet on June 20, 1943 and the lowest recorded was 918.84 feet on Jan. 10, 2013. The reading in the early afternoon of July 16 was was 921.94 feet. You can check out the water level monitoring here.

The Metropolitan Council expects to issue a draft report by the end of the month to review the water supply in the northeast metro and pose options for restoring White Bear Lake. A final report on an engineering feasibility analysis to restore White Bear Lake is expected in October. The U.S. Geological Survey is doing a separate study, looking for leaks draining through sediment at the lake bottom that may affect the lake level, Burch said.

An April editorial in the Star Tribune called for an influx of funding and regional cooperation to address the low water levels in what it termed "one of the crown jewels in the Twin Cities lakes system." The White Bear Press noted the legislature approved $950,000 in May to fund programs aimed at restoring White Bear Lake’s water level and preventing water shortages in the area.

Ideas to solve the problem include augmentation – which is bringing water in from elsewhere – and having St. Paul sell treated water to other cities to so they don't need to pump water from area aquifers. A White Bear Lake Homeowners Association and the White Bear Lake Restoration Association filed a lawsuit against the DNR, accusing the state department of mismanaging the lake with excessive aquifer pumping.

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