WHITE BEAR LAKE, Minn. — The state of Minnesota violated environmental law as well as the public trust in failing to protect White Bear Lake and its aquifer, a district judge ruled in a case with broader implications for future suburban development.
Ramsey County District Judge Margaret Marrinan, in a ruling Wednesday, wrote that the state should have done a better job managing area wells to protect the lake’s water level and had allowed excessive pumping of the Prairie du Chien aquifer without knowing whether it was sustainable.
The judge ordered the Department of Natural Resources to stop issuing any more well permits within a five-mile radius of White Bear Lake until it’s certain the drawdowns are sustainable, the Star Tribune reported.
Marrinan’s ruling also directs the state to ban residential irrigation when White Bear Lake falls below 923.5 feet above sea level and continue the ban until the lake rises to 924 feet.
The lake during the area’s recent drought fell far below that level, reaching 918.5 feet in 2013, although heavy rain since has pushed it higher.
Greg McNeely, a spokesman for the lakeshore owners and area supporters who brought the suit against the state, said the case has wider implications.
“It’s not about White Bear Lake, it’s about how much water we use. It’s not sustainable, and our lake is the canary in the coal mine,” he said.
The Department of Natural Resources issued a statement which said it was “surprised and deeply disappointed.” An appeal was not ruled out.