Little Canada to pump from Twin Lake

Twin Lake as seen off Twin Lake Trail in Little Canada on June 6. That same day the Little Canada City Council voted to pump water from the lake, which has been rising and flooding backyards, threatening homes. (Mike Munzenrider)

With lakeshore residents’ concerns about rising water on Twin Lake reaching a fever pitch in late May, the Little Canada City Council during a June 6 emergency meeting voted to pump water from the lake.

The drastic move came after city-supplied sandbags were the only things holding back water from entering the lowest lying home on the lake, said Little Canada City Administrator Chris Heineman. 

Per Heineman, Twin Lake was at an elevation of 876.1 feet as of June 5, a tenth of a foot higher than the low opening at the lowest home.

Pumping will not be an inexpensive nor simple solution, Heineman said. 

The council approved a resolution to spend no more than $25,000 on pump setup. The actual cost came in at just below that. Heineman estimated that pumping, which is expected to last months, could cost $10,000 to $15,000 every four weeks.

The lake, located just north of Interstate 694 atop Little Canada and with shoreline in Vadnais Heights, has been on the rise for the past few years. 

Considered a landlocked basin with no outlet, Twin Lake has been flooding yards and outbuildings for the past couple of months, based on a particularly wet spring and a recently recognized inflow from West Vadnais Lake, with no sign of the waters receding on their own for some time.

The city has hired Northern Dewatering, Inc., Heineman said, which will deploy a 16-inch dewatering pump capable of removing 7,500 gallons of water per minute from the lake. 

That water will move through a 600-foot, 18-inch-diameter discharge pipe into a Minnesota Department of Transportation-controlled drainage system to the southeast of the lake, then to the Lake Owasso basin and beyond.

Heineman said it’s unclear just how much pumping will happen — a required Department of Natural Resources permit allows for the city to move more than 50 million gallons of water.

The resolution approved by the council called for pumping “to bring the lake level down to a safe level under the lowest home elevation, at a level yet to be determined.”

“We really don’t know how much pumping will be required to make a difference in [lake] elevation,” Heineman said.

According to Heineman, for the pump to go in, a temporary gravel road needs to be built through a lakeshore property for access to the water. Once that goes in — it was being built as this edition of the paper went to print — Northern Dewatering will install its pump.


Downstream considerations

The board of the Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District, where Twin Lake is located, during its annual meeting on June 5 passed a motion advising Little Canada to pump from the lake.

Prior to that, during a May 22 city council meeting at which the watershed district presented information on what was happening at the lake, lakeshore residents pleaded with city and watershed officials to do something about the rising waters.

“We are a bath tub filling and the faucet is running hard,” said resident Angela Malone at the meeting. “It’s very painful to watch all our property — it’s just disappearing.”

Residents expressed dissatisfaction with the city and the watershed’s response, both at the meeting and in the media, and while Heineman said he understands their frustrations, he said he thought the city had followed an “excellent process” to get to this point.

“I think we’ve been as responsive as we can be,” he said, noting it’s a significant step for the city to come in and use public money to protect private property from flooding. He also pointed out that MnDOT and DNR permits were fast-tracked — taking days instead of weeks — to make pumping possible. 

Water pumped out of Twin Lake doesn’t just vanish, either. 

Heineman said as extra water is pumped into the Owasso basin, pumping will need to be put on pause 12-24 hours prior to any storms expected to drop more than two inches of rain. 

Per watershed estimates, pumping on top of a strong storm would put downstream areas in the basin, including the North Star Estates manufactured housing community — home to some 250 housing units — at risk of flash flooding.

“This is unprecedented, for sure,” Heineman said, “but I think we can make a difference with this pump situation, but boy, we’ve got to be watching it very closely.”

Stan Martin, who has lived on the southeast end of Twin Lake since the late 1980s, has seen more than half of his two-acre lot go underwater, though his home isn’t at risk. He said he’d like to see officials come up with a long-term solution to the lake’s water problems, such as opening up a non-emergency outflow.

“I don’t want pumping as a permanent solution,” Martin said.

Neither does the city, especially when it comes to the cost.

“For a city the size of Little Canada, it quickly becomes at least 2% or 3% of our annual general fund expenditures,” Heineman said. “One event like this, one unbudgeted event like this ... that’s a big deal.”


–Mike Munzenrider can be reached at or 651-748-7813.

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