Big Sandy Lake Dam is a significant hazard dam located on the Sandy River in Aitkin County, Minnesota, 1.25 miles upstream of the junction between the Sandy River and Mississippi River. The dam’s original purpose was to provide supplemental flow to the Mississippi River during periods of low river stages for navigation. Construction of the locks and dams downstream of Minneapolis in the 1930s reduced the need for upstream storage for navigation, and since then Sandy Lake Dam’s purpose has shifted to flood control, recreation, fish and wildlife conservation, and water supply.
Under the Continuing Authorities Program (CAP), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is authorized to plan, design and construct certain types of water resource and ecosystem restoration projects without additional and specific congressional authorization. The purpose is to implement projects of limited scope and complexity. Each authority has specific guidelines and total program and per-project funding limits. Studies are cost-shared 50/50 during feasibility. Most projects are cost-shared 65 percent Federal and 35 percent non-Federal during implementation, unless otherwise noted.
The Section 569 program authorizes the Corps to provide public entities in the 18-county northeastern Minnesota area assistance in the form of design and construction assistance for water-related environmental infrastructure and resource protection and development projects, including projects for wastewater treatment and related facilities, water supply and related facilities, environmental restoration and surface water resource protection and development.
The Mississippi River Headwaters Project consists of six headwaters dams in north-central Minnesota. Cross Lake, Gull Lake, Big Sandy Lake, Lake Winnibigoshish, Pokegama Lake and Leech Lake make up the headwaters lakes system. They were constructed or reconstructed between 1900 and 1913 (work on Pokegama started in 1884 and Winnibigoshish in 1885) to aid navigation on the Mississippi River between St. Paul, Minnesota, and Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin.
Pokegama Dam was constructed in 1884. The main embankment was constructed with a pervious, rock and clay-filled timber structure core and covered with sandy material. In 1941, a sheetpile wall was installed upstream of the timber core to minimize unwanted seepage (flow) through the embankment. The existing sheetpile wall has been effective at controlling seepage, but its overall condition is currently in question. Without an effective seepage barrier, the water levels could rise throughout the embankment causing downstream slope instability, which would threaten the integrity of the dam.
Over its history, Sandy Lake Dam has undergone a series of modifications, repairs and periodic inspections. From 2011 to 2016, a series of above and below water inspections identified several features that had deteriorated to a point that repair or replacement were necessary to maintain the long-term stability of the structure. Sandy Lake Dam is located on the Sandy River in Aitkin County, Minnesota, 1.25 miles upstream of the junction between the Sandy River and Mississippi River.
Zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) in the Upper Mississippi River are a significant threat to the endangered Higgins eye pearlymussel (Lampsilis higginsii) and winged mapleleaf (Quadrula fragosa). The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District and Engineer Research and Development Center are conducting a study in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; the National Park Service; the Departments of Natural Resources from Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa; and the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission. Recommended management alternatives outside the Corps’ existing authorities would need to be implemented by others.
The Tribal Partnership Program is authorized by Section 203 of the Water Resources Development Act of 2000. The Tribal Partnership Program provides authority for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in cooperation with Indian nations to study and determine the feasibility of carrying out projects that will substantially benefit Indian nations. Activity may address (A) projects for flood damage reduction, environmental restoration and protection and preservation of cultural and natural resources; (B) watershed assessments and planning activities; and (C) such other projects as the Corps, in cooperation with Indian tribes and the heads of other federal agencies, determines to be appropriate.
The St. Paul District is responsible for maintaining 244 miles of the Upper Mississippi River 9-foot channel navigation system from the head of navigation in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to Guttenberg, Iowa. The project is located in or contiguous to Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa. The navigation project within the St. Paul District includes 13 sets of locks and dams that are operated and maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In addition to the locks and dams the project includes channel maintenance, recreation and natural resource activities.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District is responsible for maintaining 244 miles of the Upper Mississippi River 9-foot channel navigation system from the head of navigation at Minneapolis, Minnesota, to Guttenberg, Iowa. The navigation system also includes the lower navigable portions of the Minnesota, St. Croix, and Black Rivers.