Rain Helps Water Levels on Leaking White Bear Lake

Updated: 06/23/2014 10:26 AM KSTP.com By: Kate Renner

The rainy weather is putting a damper on a lot of fun on lakes with no wake restrictions on Lake Minnetonka, Prior Lake and the St. Croix River.

But how does a thirsty White Bear Lake look after years of some of the lake's lowest water levels? For the first time in five years, White Bear Lake residents are bragging about their water levels.

"Minnetonka has a no wake zone, so if you want to go fast come over here," said Greg McNeely, Chair of the White Bear Lake Restoration Association.

"It's nice to see the levels come back up," Hugo resident Brad Claassen said.

A busy boat launch was a nice change for a lake thought to be disappearing.

"I'd guess right now there are a couple hundred boats out there," Claassen said.

According to the Department of Natural Resources, White Bear Lake is up nine inches from its peak last year.

"If this rainfall pattern we're seeing continues, we may see a continued rise in the lake," Jason Moeckel with the DNR Ecological and Water Resources said.

But the White Bear Lake Restoration Association says this rain isn't the long-term solution; it's just a Band-Aid on a much deeper problem. 

"When it stops raining, our lake will continue to go down," McNeely said.

McNeely likens the lake to a cup filled with rain from the top with a hole in the bottom.

"The question is, how fast is it going out?" Moeckel asked.

The association is suing the Department of Natural Resources, asking for a fix to a problem identified in a Metropolitan Council study that points to groundwater pumped out of the lake. 

"We've had three years of record rainfall, but still our lake is about three feet down," McNeely said.

"This lake - because of its geology - is always losing water essentially to ground water. The question is the rate," Moeckel said.

The U.S. Geological Survey is conducting a multi-year study to find out the rate of leakage through underground aquifers.

"(It's) impossible to predict what will happen to White Bear Lake. The fact that it's higher now than it has been in 5 years is very positive," Moeckel said.

According to the DNR, White Bear Lake hasn't gotten nearly as much rain as Lake Minnetonka -- about 4-5 inches less than the giant lake of the West Metro.