Pumping effective on Twin Lake

Twin Lake as seen on June 6 and again on June 26 off Twin Lake Trail, after the City of Little Canada pumped from it following high water levels that threatened lake homes. (Mike Munzenrider photos)

Residents ask Little Canada for continued action


Efforts to pump down Twin Lake in Little Canada after its waters threatened homes has been effective, according to the city.

Public Works Director Bill Dircks told the Little Canada City Council at its June 24 meeting that pumping had lowered the lake’s elevation by some 2.5 feet and that future pump work would be carried out to maintain that lake level.

The council voted during an emergency June 6 meeting to pump from the lake after the Ramsey-Washington Watershed District, at its board meeting the night prior, gave the city its blessings to do so.

The council voted to pump as the lake was at an elevation of 876.1 feet — the only thing holding water back from entering the lowest lake home was sandbags. 

The maintenance level, per Dircks and based on a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources permit to pump, is 873.5 feet.

The city action came as concerns from those who live on the lake, located in the far north of the suburb, took on a fevered pitch.

During the council’s May 22 meeting, residents pleaded with city officials to do something about the rising water, which had overtaken docks, trees and landscaping. 

Considered a landlocked basin with no outlet, Twin Lake has been high for some time, though this year’s particularly wet spring and a recently recognized inflow from West Vadnais Lake brought the highest lake elevations yet, with no sign of the waters receding on their own.

Pumping, though, has done the trick so far.

“It went better than expected — better than we had hoped,” Dircks told the council.

The city hired Northern Dewatering, Inc., to install a 16-inch dewatering pump capable of moving 7,500 gallons of water per minute. The cost to install the pump was nearly $25,000. The water was pumped into Minnesota Department of Transportation ponds, which empty into the Gervais basin and then downstream toward the Mississippi River.

Per a report to the council authored by Dircks, the pump hit ground June 20 and started pumping muck along with water. Plans are in place to bring in a smaller pump that will operate at a lower cost, consuming less fuel. City personnel are trained to operate the pump, Dircks noted, making for further cost savings.

“We’re now in maintenance mode,” Dircks told the council, “so we’ll run the pump as necessary to maintain that level as close to that 873.5 going forward for the rest of the year.”


‘Head in the sand’

Lakeshore residents had criticized both the watershed district and the city for perceived inaction on the issue. Watershed districts typically give guidance to other government entities like cities and counties about water management though don’t carry out the work on their own.

Those who spoke at the June 24 meeting thanked the city for pumping and aimed withering comments at the watershed.

“Everybody was putting their head in the sand and saying, ‘Oh, all the lakes are high,’ until [the city] came out and saw our lake — that wasn’t normal,” said lakeshore resident Angie Malone. 

Concerned residents turned up an engineering report from November 1993 that said Twin Lake’s level should not exceed 870.5 feet of elevation, three feet lower than the current maintenance level. The report was written by Barr Engineering for the Ramsey-Washington Watershed District.

“I do believe something was missed, direly, by the watershed,” Malone said at the meeting.

Ramsey-Washington Watershed District Administrator Tina Carstens, when asked for comment on resident criticism, said in an email that the organization has been doing its job of advising the city.

“The watershed has walked alongside the city over the last couple of years to provide the information they need to make decisions regarding Twin Lake,” she said. “The District continues to review past and collect current information about the area, and to work with its many agency and municipal partners in the Twin Lake area, to determine a future management elevation for Twin Lake.”


More information to come

Supplied with the report in question, council members echoed at the meeting the sentiment that something went wrong.

“It’s disheartening reading through that report — it foreshadows what happened,” said council member Tom Fischer.

With residents who spoke pushing for continued action as water levels remain high — what’s been reclaimed of their yards is still mud — council members vowed that the city would do what it could to continue to help.

Council member Michael Malone wanted to make sure communications between the city and watershed district were clear, “so that this moves forward so we don’t get paralyzed by analysis again, where it’s all graphs and studies and nothing comes out that really makes a difference.”

“I just think we need to push,” he said, “and we need to push them hard to do something.”

City Administrator Chris Heineman pumped the brakes, pointing out that the city is in conversation with the watershed and Barr Engineering, and that he expects more information about the lake to come before the council at its meetings in July. The watershed board will also be discussing Twin Lake again this month.

Said Heineman, “We are continuing to work with them and will continue to rely on their expertise.”


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

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