Minnesota has for the first time established a “protective elevation” for a lake potentially threatened by the sucking up of water in the ground around it.

White Bear Lake’s elevation has been set at 922 feet above sea level, or roughly where the lake sits now. The mid-December reading was 922.68 feet. The record low was about 919 feet in 2013, but wet weather since then has raised it up — and at a steady pace of late.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR)stresses “protective” is a legal term that doesn’t mean a guarantee the lake will stay above that level. But once it dips below, the state can step in and “trigger changes in water appropriations to prevent undue harm to a lake.” That could mean ordering watering bans on nearby lawns and gardens during a prolonged drought or other measures.

The DNR said it acted not just to assist unhappy lake homeowners and recreational users, who sued to force action, but also out of concern for “aquatic vegetation important for fish and wildlife habitat [and] water quality and clarity.”

Groups that brought litigation have said current lake levels are far from satisfactory, with a major beach closed. The case is still heading for a March 2017 trial. The agency stressed in its announcement, as it has before, that depictions of low water as a crisis are off base.

David Peterson

Fridley

Council approves $50 million civic campus

For Fridley residents, spring will bring budding signs of construction work on a new $50 million City Hall complex.

The City Council’s final approval of the plan last week comes after nearly three years of study, public meetings and workshops involving the city’s current City Hall and public works building, which are more than 60 years old.

City leaders say constructing a brand-new civic complex offers a better value than repairing the existing structures.

The council finalized the tax levy increase to fund the plan at its Dec. 27 meeting. Tax hikes will pay for capital improvement bonds for the new complex, which will house city offices as well as the police, fire and public works departments. For the average homeowner, the levy increase means paying about 19 percent more in city property taxes.

After the City Council gave the funding plan preliminary approval in November, a group of residents petitioned for a vote but failed to gather the needed number of signatures before the “reverse referendum” period ended Dec. 14.

The City Hall complex will be located off University Avenue on part of the old Columbia Arena site. Construction will begin in mid-May, with city officials expecting to move into the new facility in November 2018, said Community Development Director Scott Hickok.

Hannah Covington

Brooklyn Park

Meeting set for proposed sewer project

The Metropolitan Council will hold a public hearing this week to share information and field input about a new sewer improvement project in Brooklyn Park and Champlin.

Residents and business owners can attend the event at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the Mississippi River Room at the Brooklyn Park Library, 8500 W. Broadway Av.

The proposed project aims to overhaul and repair aging and damaged regional sewer systems in eastern Brooklyn Park and southeastern Champlin. Three rehab projects have already been completed in the two cities.

The work is part of a metro-wide effort to improve deteriorating sewer facilities.

Questions about the project can be sent to Tim O’Donnell of Met Council Environmental Services via e-mail at tim.odonnell@metc.state.mn.us or by phone at 651-602-1269.

Hannah Covington

New Hope

Council OKs bonding for street upgrades

A project aimed at sprucing up the streets and underlying utilities snaking through the area north of Northwood Lake cleared a final funding hurdle before City Council last month.

The New Hope City Council at its Dec. 19 meeting unanimously approved $4.9 million in bond sales, which will fund much of the $5.8 million project cost. For the average homeowner, the increased levy will mean paying about $30 more per year in city property taxes.

The proposed upgrades include reconstructing or repairing more than 2 miles of aging residential streets south of 42nd Avenue N., between Hwy. 169 and Boone Avenue. Many of these streets were built more than 40 years ago, according to a September feasibility study. The project also will address deteriorating sewer and stormwater pipes.

The project is part of the city’s “aggressive pavement management and infrastructure plan,” which it adopted in 2014, said City Manager Kirk McDonald. Under the plan, about $19 million has gone to road improvements since 2014.

Crews will begin work north of Northwood Lake next spring and expect to finish by the fall, city officials said.

Hannah Covington