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Lake residents sue DNR

White Bear Lake sits on the eastern side of the Twin Cities, which is the largest metro area in Minnesota. The lake has been a destination for boating, fishing, swimming and other water sports as well as providing a view for many lakeside homes and restaurants. However, water levels of the 2,400 acre, 80-foot-deep lake reduced over time to low point in 2013, at which time it surpassed the Dust Bowl drought levels. This was despite average or above average rainfall during the nine-year period from 2007 to 2016.

Too many wells blamed

Local homeowners sued the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in 2013 for failing to take care of White Bear Lake by letting too many wells tap into the aquifer beneath the lake. A district judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in 2017, ordering the DNR to review all well permits within 5 miles of the lake. The ruling also required nearby townships and water districts to find other water sources, such as the Mississippi River or other bodies of water.

Water levels back, but for how long? Despite the fact that state lawmakers delayed implementation of the law until 2019, White Bear Lake’s water levels are back to historically average levels (and 13-year high). Residents (most of the lakeshore is privately owned) and business owners (who are finally seeing crowds of customers again) do not believe the problem has been solved after a string of wetter than normal years.

“What we’re seeing right now is what the science showed — that our new highs are much lower and that our lows are going to be lower,” said the chairman of the homeowners group that sued the DNR in a recent article. “Just because it has rained like crazy doesn’t mean we can relax on it.”

Property owners need to look after their interests

A majority of the lake’s coastline is privately owned, which means that many homeowners’ property values are reduced by a view of mud and swamp vegetation. While no study was conducted, anecdotal evidence clearly indicates that the lake is a huge economic engine for local businesses.

If your home or neighborhood is detrimentally impacted by actions of others, it is wise to follow the lead of this group in Minnesota homeowners. While the lake levels are up, the ruling will help maintain a quality of life they have right to expect and deserve. An attorney with real estate experience can help protect your property rights, particularly as they relate to water and other issues.

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