Pumping will continue on Twin Lake in Little Canada

Next, it’s wait and see

After 30 days of pumping from Twin Lake, Little Canada city officials say they’ve found success in protecting homes on the lake shore from historically high waters.

With nearly $35,000 sunk into removing water from the lake, the question before the Little Canada City Council at its July 10 meeting was what to do next.

In the end, the council voted unanimously to seek permits to further pump from the lake, reducing it by another two feet of elevation below currently permitted levels and then to wait and see what happens next, hoping water levels can remain relatively low  without further human intervention.

In May, Twin Lake shore residents pleaded to the council and officials from the Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District to do something about water levels that were threatening homes. 

In recent years the lake’s elevation had been up, though following a wet winter and rainy spring water levels spiked. A recently recognized inflow from West Vadnais Lake was further exacerbating the problem, and water threatened the low home on the lake, with the city supplying sandbags to protect the structure.

With water at an elevation of 876.1 feet and held back only by the sandbags from entering that low home, the council on June 6, with the watershed district’s blessing, voted at an emergency meeting to pump from the lake. 

Public Works Director Bill Dircks, speaking at the July 10 council meeting, said the lake elevation as of two days prior was at 873 feet, with the city only running the pump during the day. 

Permits from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Minnesota Department of Transportation allowed the city to pump to 873.5 feet, with the water being sent into MnDOT ponds and then into the Gervais Lake basin. The elevation had dipped blow the permitted level on its own.

With plans to switch to a smaller pump that’s cheaper to run regardless of what the council decided to do, Dircks told members that city staffers recommended going to an elevation of 872 feet, while also giving them the option of going half a foot lower, which they ultimately chose to do. 

The lower elevation of 871.5 gives city crews total access to lakeside manhole covers.

 

‘We can’t fight nature’

With the decision to pump lower, council members were also adamant that the city had done its job and that pumping couldn’t continue in perpetuity. Dircks said an estimated $34,400 had already been spent on the first month of the pump, and that he expected an outlay of about $7,000 for every additional month with the smaller setup.

Assuming new permits are issued for the lower elevation, another month of pumping should get the lake to the desired level. Dircks said it’s unknown how much groundwater could affect that elevation — the inflow from West Vadnais Lake has largely been remedied.

Council member Tom Fischer summed up many of his colleagues’ feelings, saying, “We can’t fight nature.”

Dircks said long-term solutions to controlling Twin Lake’s elevation are being discussed, with a permanent pipe into the MnDOT ponds as the most likely and cost-effective measure.

When such a pipe could be put in place is an open question — planning could run past the ideal time for construction of this fall, Dircks said.

Further complicating such work is the number of stakeholders involved in the matter. Little Canada would need Vadnais Heights’ help based on Twin Lake’s location in the northern reaches of the city, then there’s the matter of the watershed district, the DNR, MnDOT, private property owners and more.

Council member Rick Montour pointed out that at one of the most recent Twin Lake meetings he’d counted 14 government entities in attendance.

A handful of lakeshore homeowners spoke at the July 10 meeting, and while they were thankful that the city stepped in, few seemed to share council members’ concerns over continued city costs. A number of residents asked for pumping below the level eventually agreed upon, seeking to reclaim even more of their flooded backyards.

Acknowledging the situation as ever fluid, Mayor John Keis reminded residents that the city acted in an emergency situation and called for folks to wait and see what comes after the next round of pumping.

“I truly think we need the next month to see what happens,” he said.

 

–Mike Munzenrider can be reached at mmunzenrider@lillienews.com or 651-748-7813.

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