DNR’s Landwehr to locals on groundwater: ‘You figure it out.’

Some 200 local officials, government staff members, business representatives, metro area residents and legislators showed up Wednesday night in Shoreview to see and hear the state Department of Natural Resources kick off its groundwater management area for the north and east metro area.

Beneath the Surface: Minnesota’s Pending Groundwater Challenge

The DNR used the meeting to explain its plan for a new approach over the coming 12 to 14 months to handle the growing pressure on the area’s groundwater. (You can find details and background in reporter Elizabeth Dunbar’s Wednesday story.)

“This is a brand new page for us,” DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr told the group. “We don’t know what it will look like in the end.”

The best outcome, Landwehr stressed, would be a plan for groundwater use devised by cities and residents themselves in the north and east metro area. That could spell out a variety of conservation, re-use, water-sharing, leak detection and other measures all aimed at making sure the area doesn’t use more groundwater than is sustainable.

But ultimately, authority for protecting and appropriating Minnesota’s water lies with the state.

“You guys figure it out,” Landwehr said. “If you can’t figure it out, we’ll do it for you. But the affected entities will give a better decision than a top-down decision.”

The geography involved in this, the first DNR groundwater management area, includes Ramsey, Washington and southern Anoka counties.

White Bear Lake, whose shrinking size has caused alarm among nearby residents and sparked discussion of groundwater issues, lies in the middle of the DNR area.

But Landwehr stressed that the lake wasn’t the reason the DNR was taking its new approach. Groundwater issues are complex and longstanding and involve a broader area than the lake, he said.