North & East Metro GWMA Update

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minnesota department of natural resources

North and East Metro Groundwater Management Area Update

January 14, 2021

The advisory group for the North and East Metro Groundwater Management Area met for the second of its 2020 semi-annual meetings on November 13, through an online meeting format. The agenda included:

  • Comments on DNR’s approach to groundwater management from deputy commissioner Barb Naramore;
  • An update from Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) staff on the 3M settlement and water supply planning in the east metro area;
  • A MPCA overview of an investigation into the role that the Valley Branch Watershed District’s Project 1007 may be playing in moving PFCs through the environment;
  • Comments from DNR’s Jason Moeckel on next steps and the need for ongoing stakeholder engagement as the North and East Metro Groundwater Management Area Plan comes to the end of its five-year framework;
  • Discussion of what advisory team members see as the main groundwater related challenges they face over the next five to ten years.

DNR deputy commissioner Naramore reflects on accomplishments

DNR deputy commissioner Barb Naramore noted that in about 2012 the agency began taking a closer look at how it should implement departmental responsibilities related to groundwater. Out of that examination came the North and East Metro Groundwater Management Area, the first of three such groundwater management areas, designated by former commissioner Tom Landwehr in November 2015.

Since that time, much has been accomplished by stakeholders in the affected area, from the city of Hugo’s extensive re-use of stormwater to Shoreview’s WaterSmart program aimed at making residents more aware of their water usage, and St. Paul Regional Water Services’ shift to greater reliance on surface water and less on groundwater. “We’ve seen lots of innovations,” Naramore said. “We’re pleased we’ve been able to be a partner, and we look forward to continued collaboration.”

Water supply planning in east metro

MPCA staff Liz Kaufenberg, and Andri Dahlmeier provided an update on the conceptual drinking water plan that is under development by the MPCA and DNR, with input from working groups as part of the 3M settlement to address PFAS contamination in east metro groundwater. The 2018 settlement provided about $720 million to invest in drinking water and natural resource projects in the Twin Cities east metropolitan region. Using the health index developed by the Minnesota Department of Health to determine unsafe levels of PFAS in drinking water along with community suggested projects, the MPCA and DNR drew upon hydraulic and groundwater models and growth forecasts to identify three draft recommended options to provide safe drinking water to 14 east metro communities where groundwater is contaminated with PFAS. Two of those options rely entirely on groundwater to meet communities’ drinking water needs now and into the future. A third option would connect Lake Elmo and Oakdale to St. Paul Regional Water Services, while other communities would rely on groundwater.

Following a public comment period that was open through December 10, the MPCA and DNR expects to finalize the conceptual plan by Spring 2021, with implementation to begin soon thereafter.

Project 1007 investigation of PFAS movement

Rebecca Higgins, with the MPCA, provided an overview of the Project 1007 investigation into how PFAS move in the east metro area. The project has undertaken extensive water sampling, hydrogeological modeling and chemical analyses to better understand the interactions of surface water and groundwater in the transport of various chemicals that are of concern when found in drinking water, soils and sediment, and in surface waters. The project also has been looking at impacts to biotic communities and identifying possible corrective actions.

Looking ahead

Jason Moeckel, DNR inventory, monitoring & analysis section manager, reflected on the five-year anniversary of the North and East Metro Groundwater Management Area plan. Moeckel said the DNR is reviewing the plan to see what tasks have been accomplished, and where work remains to be done, as it looks ahead to determine next steps.

“We want to stimulate a conversation around what are the big issues we should be focused on,” Moeckel said. To that end, DNR planner and meeting facilitator Mark Hauck asked participants to share what they saw as some of the most important groundwater related issues in the coming years.

Several people mentioned concerns about uncertainty around regulations, especially in light of the ongoing litigation related to White Bear Lake. Other concerns identified included: aging well infrastructure and the disappearance of large well drillers; the challenges of promoting water conservation when some areas are experiencing flooding; and the need for better public understanding of the relationship and interactions between groundwater and surface water.

Keep up to date on future plans for the North and East Metro Groundwater Management Area by subscribing to this email newsletter at

You can also view a recording of the MPCA staff presentations on the North and East Metro GWMA webpage.

The North & East Metro Groundwater Management Area advisory team was established to provide ongoing insights to the DNR as it implements a five-year plan approved in November 2015. The plan provides a framework within which the DNR will work with water users to ensure that groundwater supplies remain adequate to meet human needs, while protecting lakes, streams and wetlands. The plan covers all of Ramsey and Washington Counties, along with portions of Anoka and Hennepin.