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Urgency in community
Scott Mueller, who owns a funeral home in White Bear Lake, is chairman of the White Bear Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors. He also sits on the Lake Level Resolution Committee of the White Bear Lake Conservation District, a role that has taught him more about the area’s hydrogeology than he ever thought possible. “It’s surprising what you learn,” he said.
The panel has been studying the issue for months and offered six options aimed at either bolstering the lake level directly or reducing reliance on the aquifer as a water source, including the two being looked at by the Metropolitan Council.
“My fear is that state agencies aren’t urgent enough about this,” he said. “I’m worried that they’re going to spend money on a report that’s just going to lead to more money being spent on another report.”
That sense of urgency is growing in the community, which not only takes its name from the lake but values it in both tangible and intangible ways.
“Over the past couple of years the conversation in White Bear Lake has changed,” Mueller said. “It used to be viewed as just a home-on-the-lake kind of issue. But people are realizing it’s not just about the people who live on the lake, it’s not just the business community — it’s about all of us. It’s all interwoven.”
One option urged by the panel already is in place: a water conservation campaign launched by the Chamber of Commerce this summer that has spilled over among residents as well. “Doing Our Part, Saving the Lake” signs, with a friendly polar bear and life preserver, are everywhere in downtown White Bear Lake, where more than 50 business are participating.
The average city resident uses 120 gallons of water a day. “You can reduce that by 20 gallons and not affect your daily life — it’s just being aware,” Mueller said. The program offers more than a dozen easy steps to do that and asks businesses to pledge implementing four of them.
It’s had tangible results in his own business, Mueller said, dropping water consumption 44 percent. “I’m still in business — it’s not like we’re not washing hands and things like that,” he said. “We’re still doing the things we’re supposed to.”
Conservation isn’t exciting, but it can have a dramatic effect on the aquifer and is an essential part of the solution that will involve multiple concerned parties, Mueller said.
“I’m a business guy. I’m used to results,” Mueller said. “I’m convinced we can fix this.”
Jim Anderson • 651-925-5039 Twitter: @StribJAnderson
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