Prof. Karkkainen Quoted in MinnPost on White Bear Lake Litigation

Professor Brad Karkkainen was quoted in a MinnPost article, commenting on litigation filed by the non-profit White Bear Lake Restoration Association against the Minnesota Department of Natural Resource (DNR) to enjoin groundwater pumping that is allegedly lowering lake levels on the popular lake in the Twin Cities north metro area. The restoration group filed an action under the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act (MERA), which authorizes citizens to sue to enjoin impairment of natural resources in the state. Citing a preliminary finding by the U.S. Geological Survey that White Bear Lake is hydrologically connected to the underlying Prairie du Chien aquifer, the complaint alleges that lake levels have declined by six feet in the last decade as a result of DNR-permitted groundwater pumping by municipalities, businesses, golf courses and other bulk water users. "The case will turn on a factual determination," Prof. Karkkainen said, adding that "if the claims are true, the plaintiffs have a pretty strong case" because the lake is the type of natural resource MERA seeks to protect, and a precipitous drop in lake levels could be considered an "impairment" for purposes of that statute if it "materially adversely affects the environment." Factual issues likely to be disputed are whether, and to what extent, DNR-permitted groundwater withdrawals have contributed to declining lake levels. The DNR is statutorily authorized to administer the use, allocation, and control of the state's waters, and to establish, maintain, and control lake levels.