Shoreview lakes reach record elevations

The swimming beach in Snail Lake Regional Park, operated by Ramsey County, was closed in 2018 and remains flooded this year. (courtesy of Mark Maloney)

Water levels at Snail Lake over the last decade. The lake used to have an issue retaining water, but now higher levels of precipitation are causing the opposite problem. (courtesy of Minnesota Department of Natural Resources)

A section of the Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District. Snail Lake is at the north end, with Grass and West Vadnais lakes, separated by Rice Street, to the southeast. (courtesy of Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District)

Increase in precipitation causing lasting problems

Snail Lake in Shoreview reached a record high elevation in May and water levels have remained fairly steady since, although the potential for residential flooding remains low, according to the city.

Mark Maloney, Shoreview director of public works, pointed to the recent “wet cycle of weather” as one of the primary drivers for the lake’s unprecedented elevations over the last decade. 

“[Snail Lake] typically had a lot more water loss through seepage to groundwater,” said engineer Erin Anderson Wenz, who has been assisting with drainage projects in the Ramsey Washington Metro Watershed District. “And groundwater levels in the region are also up because of this wet cycle, so they don’t have that outlet that they would typically have.î

According to data from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the past decade has been the wettest period on record for the area; the last nine years have all exceeded the average annual precipitation of 29.35 inches by an average of more than four inches per year.

On Snail Lake, the city has identified only one residential property that may be threatened this year and is working with the property owner to make a plan and provide sandbags if necessary.

“That’s only if we got a major storm, you know, a four-inch rainstorm or something like that on top of the level that’s there now,” Maloney said of the need for sandbagging.


System-wide backup

According to Maloney, the watershed district and the city have looked into installing an overflow system to allow Snail Lake, which has no natural outlet, to drain into Grass Lake. 

However, with high water levels in both bodies of water, the benefit is unclear. Grass Lake has also been experiencing record elevations. It naturally overflows into West Vadnais Lake but, according to Maloney, “West Vadnais is so high right now that there’s no place for Grass Lake to drain to.”

The watershed district has been working to dredge channels and increase pipe and culvert capacity between Grass and West Vadnais, but faces ongoing challenges from the record precipitation.

“The district has made sure that conveyance is happening between those water bodies as is intended, but the water just keeps coming,” said Anderson Wenz. “We end the season high in these lakes, and then we get more rain.”

High water from Grass and West Vadnais flooded Rice Street this year, causing closures between Vadnais Boulevard and Gramsie Road. The road reopened to northbound traffic on June 13. Further downstream, flooding on Twin Lake, into which West Vadnais drains, prompted the City of Little Canada to take the costly measure of pumping water from the lake to protect houses.

Maloney said some homes along Suzanne Pond, to the north of Grass Lake, have experienced flooding in their basements, noting that “nobody’s been flooded out.” Water levels in the pond there are managed by an artificial pump, which is getting old and will likely be replaced next year. 


Planning for rain 

While Anderson Wenz said it’s really “anyone’s guess” what rainfall will look like next year, the watershed district and surrounding communities are continuing to plan for the worst. 

“We’re doing our best to be resilient,” said Maloney. “But in some cases it’s meaning that people have to change their vision for what’s going to happen in certain places.”

The swimming beach at Snail Lake closed in 2018 and shows no signs of being able to reopen in the near future, as record precipitation continues this spring. Maloney also cited a few now-flooded trails built decades ago when rainfall patterns were different. 

Anderson-Wenz said the district’s main priority is keeping homes safe through frequent monitoring and communication with city governments. 

For homeowners along Snail Lake, the district is providing financial assistance for shoreline rehabilitation projects, which can help curb erosion. Roughly 30% of impacted homeowners are currently looking into the program. More information can be found at


–Bridget Kranz can be reached at or 651-748-7825.

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