The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

September 1, 2013

Mississippi could be used to fill lake

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota officials are considering a plan to divert water from the Mississippi River into White Bear Lake, which has lost about one-fourth of its water over the past decade.

At issue is how much such a plan would cost, and who would pay for it, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.

The state Legislature has provided $2 million in Clean Water Legacy funds to allow the Metropolitan Council to study whether the proposal is feasible. Lawmakers provide another $537,000 to cover the U.S. Geological Survey's continued study of the interaction of groundwater and surface water in the northeast metro.

"We don't want to have another White Bear Lake in the metropolitan area," said Ali Elhassan, the council's water-supply planning manager. He added that White Bear Lake isn't the only shrinking body of water, but it's the largest.

The initial study will focus on the option of piping water from the Mississippi into St. Paul's regional water system. St. Paul uses surface water for its supply, while White Bear Lake is fed by groundwater from a massive aquifer. Strains on the aquifer have been blamed for the receding lake levels.

Elhassan said the engineering for the piping option is feasible, but it's not clear how much the plan would cost. One issue involves screening out invasive species in the river.

The Metropolitan Council is scheduled to report its initial study findings to the Legislature in January.

One environmental group said whatever solution is proposed should address the causes of water shortages, not the symptoms. Whitney Clark, the executive director of Friends of the Mississippi River, said the problem with White Bear Lake is unsustainable groundwater use.

"When you're using water faster than the aquifer can replenish itself, that's a serious problem," she said.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
State, national news