Senate continues efforts on White Bear Lake water levels

This week was a very important week for the future of White Bear Lake as we discussed three bills aimed at restoring appropriate water levels for White Bear Lake. With the help of Representative Peter Fischer in the House and Senators Bev Scalze and Roger Chamberlain in the Senate, I believe the legislation I am working on this session will have a big impact not only on White Bear Lake, but also on the future of many lakes throughout the Metro that will be dealing with this same issue in the future.

White Bear Lake is six feet lower than the Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) recommended calculated Ordinary High Water Level. This has led to reduced property values, lowered the economic contribution of the surrounding region, and diminished the lake as a natural resource. Through the three bills we discussed this week, we hope to address the immediate problem and offer regulation solutions to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.

The first bill focuses on lake water augmentation. The bill appropriates needed funding to the Metropolitan Council to predesign, design, construct, and equip a lake water augmentation system for White Bear Lake. This augmentation would reduce groundwater depletion, increase the level of White Bear Lake to the DNR calculated Ordinary Level, and would restore the economic impact that the lake provides to the region and the state.

The legislation was laid over for possible inclusion in the Senate’s Bonding Bill. I will continue to work on the issue as the Senate crafts its bonding bill in the coming weeks.

The second bill gives the DNR additional authority to enforce water use permitting provisions, including administrative penalty order authority and additional penalties. Several of these changes were recommended by the DNR as part of a report required by the legislature last year calling for the study of new tools needed to implement existing groundwater sustainability requirements.

We hope that requiring better measurements of water and greater enforcement ability will allow the DNR to penalize those who are misusing water supplies. It will also give us a better understanding of how much groundwater is being used. This will help with groundwater sustainability decisions.

The third bill creates a new Legislative Water Commission. The commission will be responsible for reviewing water reports and recommendations provided by various state entities and make recommendations to the Legislature about water legislation. The permitting and commission bills both passed their first committee test and were sent on to the next committee in the process.

This is an important issue to everyone in White Bear Lake and the surrounding communities. I believe these bills will have a big impact. I will continue my work at the Capitol and I encourage you to stay informed and keep in touch as we discuss all three bills over the next few weeks.

Please contact me with questions or suggestions regarding any issue. I encourage you to visit me at the Capitol, or let me know if you’d like me to stop by your home or apartment. Also, please tune in to my local cable TV show, “Your Capitol: What’s Up?,” which appears on public access channels 15 and 16. I can be reached by email at sen.chuck.wiger@senate.mn and by phone at 651-296-6820.

Senator Chuck Wiger
Chuck Wiger represents District 43, which includes portions of Ramsey and Washington counties in the northeastern Twin Cities metropolitan area.

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