North & East Metro GWMA Update

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minnesota department of natural resources

North & East Metro Groundwater Management Area Update

December 13, 2019

The advisory group for the North and East Metro Groundwater Management Area met for the second of its semi-annual meetings for 2019 on November 8 at the Vadnais Heights Commons. The agenda included information on a recently launched study looking into the feasibility of enhancing groundwater recharge, along with updates on the White Bear Lake court case, the transient groundwater flow model developed for the White Bear Lake area, and the 3M settlement project.

Enhanced groundwater recharge

Carrie Jennings, research and policy director for Freshwater, a nonprofit focused on preserving Minnesota’s water resources, presented an overview of a legislative-funded study she’s overseeing that will explore whether it makes sense to enhance groundwater recharge by actively pumping clean water into a groundwater resource.

The 18-month study being conducted by Freshwater and the University of Minnesota’s Water Resources Center will focus on four areas within the state:  the Straight River Groundwater Management Area near Park Rapids, the Buffalo Aquifer near Moorhead, south Washington County, and Olmsted County. It will examine risks, costs, regulatory barriers and other factors relevant to assessing the feasibility of active groundwater recharge. The study started in July and will conclude with a report to the legislature in January 2021. More information on the project is available at the Water Resources Center website.

White Bear Lake litigation

Randall Doneen, conservation assistance and regulation manager for the DNR within the Division of Ecological and Water Resources, provided a brief overview and update on the lawsuit against the DNR alleging mismanagement of groundwater appropriations in a way that negatively impacted White Bear Lake. The case will be heard by the Minnesota Supreme Court after an appeal by the plaintiffs in the case, with briefs due to the court by mid-December and oral arguments expected sometime in 2020.

Transient groundwater flow model

Glen Champion, DNR hydrologist and groundwater modeler, provided an update on the use of the transient groundwater flow model the DNR is utilizing for the White Bear Lake area. Champion shared information about precipitation and observation well water levels within the model area. He also presented results from a recent model simulation that included the previous two years of data collected from 2017 and 2018.

3M settlement

DNR groundwater specialist John Seaberg provided an update on a project related to the settlement between the state of Minnesota and 3M over groundwater contamination arising from the company’s manufacture and use of a group of chemicals known as PFAS. The DNR and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency are co-trustees overseeing the $850 million settlement. After legal and other expenses were paid $720 million can be used to:

  • Provide sustainable sources of drinking water in the area affected by the contamination;
  • Enhance aquatic resources, wildlife habitat, and outdoor recreational opportunities in the area or downstream;
  • Fund statewide water resources, habitat restoration, open space preservation, recreation improvements, and other sustainability projects.

Working groups are developing conceptual plans for the first priority: providing clean, sustainable drinking water for communities in the east metropolitan area. The working groups are expected to have a preliminary summary of options available for public review and comment by early 2020, with rankings of options to follow in the spring.

Next steps

Next year (2020) will be the final year of the five-year implementation plan for the North and East Metro Groundwater Management Area. Over the course of the last four years the DNR and the North and East Metro GWMA Advisory Team, along with other state agencies, local governments and businesses have worked to accomplish the goals and objectives outlined in the implementation plan. Through this next year the DNR will continue to work with the Advisory Team to evaluate where we’ve come and where we want to go beyond 2020. Your input will be important to inform DNR of the next steps to take as we continue to manage our water resources for current and future generations.

The North and East Metro Groundwater Management Area advisory team will next meet in spring 2020. A meeting announcement with the date, time and location will be sent out in advance to everyone signed up to receive North & East Metro Groundwater Management Area email updates. Subscribe here.

More information on the N & E Metro GWMA: 

Project Website:

Or contact:

Dan Miller, Project Manager

Phone: 651-259-5731