Low lake requires more rain

September 2010 News
WHITE BEAR LAKE - Pontoon boats sit on the shore, anglers crowd into smaller fishing holes, the biggest beach has been closed for two years and lakeside vistas are deserted and dry.

White Bear Lake water levels are at historic lows, which have lakefront property owners and casual weekend walkers wondering what can be done to bring back the water.

White Bear Lake city officials organized a community forum Sept. 9 to discuss the facts and dispel rumors behind the record low water levels. White Bear Lake hit a record low water level of 919.87 feet above sea level Aug. 8 and has continued to drop in the weeks since.

A team of state and local water experts told more than 100 people in the audience a lack of rain is the biggest factor in the shrinking water line.

State Climatologist Peter Boulay said the area has been at or below normal precipitation levels since the early 1990s. The White Bear area has had dramatically low rain levels since 2008 and no major snow events since 2004.

"Other places in the metro area have received a lot more rain than White Bear Lake," he said.

And that matters because White Bear Lake has a small watershed with no rivers or streams that feed into it. Other nearby lakes, like Bald Eagle, have watersheds that collect rainwater from miles away.

Groundwater pumps were used to augment lake levels beginning in the 1930s but state law required the pumps be turned off in 1977. State officials said the pumps did little to increase water levels and led to environmental side effects.

State Hydrologist Jay Frischman said ground water pumps simply moved water back and forth, increasing the flow of water out the bottom of White Bear Lake.

"The more you pump from an aquifer it causes more leakage from the bedrock system of the lake," he said. "You're basically just chasing your tail."

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