Keeping an eye on water

State Sen. Chuck Wiger
District 43

Low White Bear Lake water levels and low groundwater volume have alerted local residents that one of our most precious resources needs watching. Recently, 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 benefit not only White Bear Lake, but the future of many lakes in the area that will be dealing with this same issue in the future.

White Bear Lake is six feet lower than the Department of Natural Resources’ recommended 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 and would restore the lake’s economic role. 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. 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, to help future sustainability plans.

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

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.

 

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