A settlement agreement between landowners on White Bear Lake and Minnesota's Department of Natural Resources will launch a plan to change the water supply of more than a dozen communities in the Twin Cities area.
If approved by a judge, the settlement would put a lawsuit against the state agency on ice for up to three years, KARE 11 reports.
The suit filed by two groups of homeowners on the lake near St. Paul claims a record low water level was caused by the DNR allowing too many communities to draw their water from wells, thereby depleting the underground aquifer.
In its announcement of the settlement agreement Monday, the DNR says it still disagrees that groundwater pumping is what caused White Bear Lake to drop. But the agency agrees to take steps to encourage 13 cities and townships to switch to surface water pumped from the Mississippi River.
Greg McNeely of the White Bear Lake Restoration Association says in a statement released by the group's law firm: “Today represents a new chapter for the lake and for our ongoing efforts to restore and preserve the lake for generations of Minnesotans.”
FOX 9 notes the settlement, reached with the help of a mediator, includes an agreement by the DNR to set a protective water elevation for the lake by November of 2016.
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The Star Tribune reports the DNR has maintained the drop in White Bear Lake's level is part of a natural fluctuation that will actually help some plants and fish. But Ramsey County District Judge Margaret Marrinan, whose approval is needed for the settlement to take effect, has written that the hundreds of feet of exposed lake bed not only harm boating and fishing, they also create conditions for harmful species such as Eurasian milfoil.
The Pioneer Press says the homeowners groups hope the agreement with the DNR will lead to a rebound in their property values by replenishing the lake level and its reputation as a destination for boaters and anglers.
How long it might take for that to happen is still unclear, though. As the Pioneer Press notes, the cost of switching the 13 communities from wells to river water could amount to $230 million. The source of that money is not specified in the settlement, though the DNR agrees to work toward a legislative appropriation.