The St. Paul District Tribal Nations Program

There are 25 federally-recognized Tribal Nations within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, area of responsibility. This includes the civil works and regulatory programs. There are also Tribes that do not have federal recognition within the St. Paul District. There are over 40 Tribal Nations with ancestral ties, or historical and cultural connections, to the area.

Tribal Nations are sovereign nations, and the St. Paul District understands and appreciates the unique relationship we have with them. The district appointed two tribal liaisons to develop and implement a proactive tribal program focused on carrying out the USACE federal trust responsibility, government-to-government consultation, obligations to preserve and protect trust resources, and consider potential effects of USACE programs on natural and cultural resources.

In undertaking any action which may impact Tribal rights or interests, the Corps of Engineers is guided by the following six principles as described in the USACE Tribal Consultation Policy (October 4, 2012):

  • All federally recognized Tribes are sovereign governments and will be treated with respect;
  • The Trust responsibility will be honored and fulfilled;
  • USACE will maintain a government-to-government relationship with Tribes;
  • Consultation will be an integral, invaluable process of USACE planning and implementation;
  • USACE will support Tribal self-determination, self-reliance and capacity building; and
  • Protection of Natural and Cultural Resources.

Program Opportunities

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 Continuing Authorities Program

The continuing authorities program, or CAP, authorizes the Corps of Engineers to plan, design and construct small scale projects under an existing program authority from Congress. Local governments and agencies seeking assistance may request the Corps of Engineers to investigate potential water resource issues that may fit a particular authority.

A CAP project is conducted in two phases. The first phase is a two-step feasibility study, where the federal interest is initially established using up to $100,000 of federal funding. The remaining feasibility study is cost-shared 50 percent federal and 50 percent non-federal. Typically, this results in a report documenting the issues, objectives, recommended alternative(s) and environmental compliance required for the project.

Once the feasibility phase is complete and the Corps of Engineers has approved the project, the design and implementation phase is initiated. The non-federal sponsor must agree to the following before a project will enter the design and implementation phase:

  • Provide all lands, easements, rights-of-way, relocations and disposal, or LERRD, areas necessary for construction and maintenance. The cost of LERRD is applied toward the non-federal sponsor’s cost-share;
  • Maintain and operate the project after completion without cost to the federal government (most projects);
  • Prevent future encroachments, which may interfere with proper functioning of the project; and
  • Assume responsibility for any cash requirements, including costs in excess of applicable federal cost limitations.

The design and implementation phase includes completion of design, plans and specifications and construction. This phase is cost-shared, typically 65 percent federal and 35 percent non-federal.

 Section 14 | Emergency Streambank and Shoreline Protection

The Corps of Engineers is authorized to construct bank stabilization and protection projects to protect endangered public and non-profit infrastructure including highways, bridges, approaches and other essential public services such as hospitals, cultural sites and water supply systems from flood and storm damages due to erosion. Privately owned property and facilities are not eligible for protection under this authority. The maximum federal dollar limit is $5 million per project.

Flood Control Act of 1946, as amended

 Section 204 | Beneficial Use of Dredged Material

The Corps of Engineers can restore, protect or create aquatic and wetland habitats in connection with construction maintenance dredging of an authorized federal navigation project. The cost-share under this program is 65 percent federal and 35 percent non-federal for all costs above the base disposal plan, where the base disposal plan is the least costly plan for typical disposal of dredged material. The federal government pays 100 percent up to the cost of the base disposal plan.

Water Resources Development Act of 1992, as amended

 Section 205 | Flood Control

The Corps of Engineers is authorized to investigate and construct local flood risk reduction projects by construction or improvement of flood control works. Typical flood control projects include levees, floodwalls, channel modifications, pumping stations or some non-structural measures. The maximum federal limit is $10 million per project.

Flood Control Act of 1948, as amended

 Section 206 | Aquatic Habitat Ecosystem Restoration

The Corps of Engineers is authorized to restore and protect aquatic ecosystems and wetland habitats to improve the quality of the environment. Examples of projects include stream and wetland restoration and channel modifications. The maximum federal limit is $10 million per project.

Water Resources Development Act of 1996, as amended

 Section 1135 | Project Modifications for Improvement of the Environment

The Corps of Engineers is authorized to assist in the restoration of degraded ecosystems through the modification of Corps of Engineers’ structures, operations or implementation of measures in affected areas. The maximum federal limit is $10 million per project.

Water Resources Development Act of 1996, as amended

 Emergency Management

What the Corps of Engineers Can Do
The emergency management program allows the Corps of Engineers to provide leadership and support to federal, state and local partners in preventing, protecting from, mitigating, responding to, and recovering from disasters. Our intent is to save lives and protect property. To that end we ensure a knowledgeable and experienced work force is always available to respond. Our authority and expertise is in flood risk management and response and is found at Public Law 84-99, as amended. We also are prepared to execute recovery missions assigned by FEMA under Emergency Support Function #3, Public Works and Engineering. We are always available to provide emergency technical assistance to jurisdictions for a wide range of engineering specialties.

Before and During a Flood Event
Prevention and protection are accomplished through the Corps of Engineers inspection program for federal and non-federal flood risk management structures. We monitor the status of levee systems and notify levee sponsors of potential issues or concerns. When flooding is imminent, the Corps is authorized to perform flood response activities. These direct and technical assistance activities are 100 percent federally funded and can include materiel (sandbags, poly), emergency levee construction, technical assistance, search and rescue support.

After the Event Occurs
The Corps of Engineers supports recovery and mitigation activities for floods and other types of disasters. Flood mitigation and recovery is authorized under Public Law 84- 99 and includes repair of eligible flood control structures. Design and coordination of these repairs is 100 percent federal. Implementation of repairs or other work is cost-shared 80 percent federal and 20 percent non-federal. Assistance to individual homeowners and businesses is not permitted. FEMA assigns the Corps of Engineers missions under Public Law 93-288 (the Stafford Act). These missions can include temporary housing, critical public facilities, emergency power, debris removal, temporary roofing and infrastructure assessment.

 Environmental Infrastructure Assistance

The primary objective of the environmental infrastructure program is to provide design and construction assistance to non-federal sponsors interested in carrying out water-related environmental infrastructure and resource protection and development projects in North Dakota, Northeastern Minnesota and Northern Wisconsin. Projects may include wastewater treatment and related facilities, water supply and related facilities, environmental restoration and surface water resource protection and development.

The St. Paul District manages projects in North Dakota (Section 594) jointly with the Omaha District, and in Northeastern Minnesota (Section 569), and Northern Wisconsin (Section 154) jointly with the Detroit District. This is a cost-shared program, 75 percent federal and 25 percent non-federal. The Corps of Engineers can engage in design, construction, or both, for projects under this program.

Example projects include storm and sewer systems, water treatment and water delivery.

 Floodplain Management Services 

What the Corps of Engineers Can Do
The floodplain management services program provides a full range of technical services and planning guidance needed to support effective floodplain management. Funding cannot support construction. Under this program, the Corps is authorized, upon request by other federal, non-federal, local or individual entities or federally recognized tribes, to provide a full range of technical services and planning guidance on floods and floodplain issues. Funding is allocated to studies based on national and regional priorities. This program is 100 percent federally funded; however, sponsors can make contributions to enhance approved studies.

General Technical Services
This program develops or interprets site-specific data on obstructions to flood flows; flood formation and timing; flood depths or stages; floodwater velocities; and the extent, duration and frequency of flooding. It also provides information on natural and cultural floodplain resources before and after the use of floodplain management measures.

Special Studies
Special studies can range from helping a community identify present or future floodplain areas to a broad assessment of the various floodplain management alternatives. Some of the most common types of special studies include:

  • Floodplain Delineation/Flood Hazard Evaluation
  • Dam Break Analysis
  • Flood Warning Systems/Preparedness
  • Regulatory Floodway Determination
  • Floodplain Management Planning
  • Urbanization Impact Analysis
  • Storm Water Management
  • Hydrologic, Hydraulic, and Sediment Transport Modeling
  • Flood Inundation Mapping on Extent, Depth, Duration and Frequency of Flooding
  • Disseminating/Developing Information on Non-structural Options and Flood Proofing
  • Develop Emergency Evacuation Plans
  • Flood Plain Structure Inventories and Flood Susceptibility
  • Post Signs Indicating the 1 Percent (100-year) Flood Elevation

SECTION 206 of the Flood Control Act of 1960, as amended

 Planning Assistance to States and Tribes

What the Corps of Engineers Can Do
Typical studies are only at the planning level of detail. They do not include detailed designs for project construction and do not include any construction funding. Work under this authority falls into two categories: comprehensive plans and technical assistance.

Comprehensive Plans
Comprehensive plans involve water resource planning for the development, utilization and conservation of the water and related resources of drainage basins, watershed or ecosystems, including plans to comprehensively address water resource challenges. Federal allotments for comprehensive planning for each state or tribe are limited to $5 million in federal funds annually but typically are much less. Individual studies, of which there may be more than one per state or tribe per year, generally range in cost from $25,000 to more than $100,000. The cost-share for comprehensive planning is 50 percent federal and 50 percent non-federal.

Technical Assistance
Technical assistance under this authority involves assisting states or tribes with technical matters relating to the management of water resources, including the provision and integration of hydrologic, economic or environmental data and analysis. Federal allotments for technical assistance for each state or tribe are limited to $2 million in federal funds annually. The cost-share for these technical assistance projects is 50 percent federal and 50 percent non-federal.

Typical Studies
The program can encompass many types of studies dealing with water resource issues. Types of studies conducted in recent years under the program include:

  • Water Supply and Demand
  • Water Quality
  • Environmental Conservation
  • Environmental Restoration
  • Wetland Evaluation
  • Dam Safety and Failure
  • Flood Risk Management
  • Floodplain Management
  • Land Use
  • Master Planning
  • Economic Analysis
  • GIS Development
    • 50% FEDERAL
    • 50% NON-FEDERAL

SECTION 22 of the Water Resources Development Act of 1974, as amended

 Regulatory Program

The purpose of Corps of Engineers' regulatory program is to protect the nation's aquatic resources, while allowing reasonable development through fair, flexible and balanced permit decisions. The Corps evaluates permit applications for all regulated activities that occur in the nation's waters, including wetlands.

The Corps' regulatory program includes Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 and Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. The St. Paul District's regulatory jurisdiction covers the states of Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Under Section 10, a Corps permit is required to do any work in, over or under a 'Navigable Water of the U.S.' Waterbodies have been designated as 'Navigable Waters of the U.S.' based on their past, present or potential use for transportation for interstate commerce.

Under Section 404, a Corps permit is required for the discharge of dredged or fill material into waters of the U.S. Many waterbodies and wetlands in the nation are waters of the U.S. and are subject to the Corps' Section 404 regulatory authority.

Permit Evaluations
Before a permit is issued or verified, the Corps must ensure obligations under related federal laws and Tribal Trust responsibilities have been met. Some of the laws for which the Corps must determine compliance are:

  • National Historic Preservation Act; 
  • Endangered Species Act,
  • National Environmental Policy Act;, and

Section 401 of the Clean Water Act.

​The amount and complexity of information needed to make a permit decision depends on the project type, location, and degree of adverse impacts. The decision whether to grant or deny a permit is based on compliance with the Clean Water Act and a public interest review of the probable benefits and detriments of the proposed activity.

The following criteria are considered in the evaluation of every application:

  • Relative extent of the public and private need of the proposed activity;
  • Practicability of using reasonable alternative locations and methods to accomplish the objective of the proposed activity; and
  • Extent and permanence of the beneficial and detrimental effects of the proposed activity.

An applicant must demonstrate that they have avoided then minimized impacts to waters of the U.S. to the greatest extent practicable. The Corps then considers compensatory mitigation to replace the functions and services of waters of the U.S. that cannot be avoided. Generally, the Corps requires that losses of waters of the U.S. are replaced before a project begins through the restoration or enhancement of similar aquatic resources in the same watershed.

Types of Permits

A Corps permit is required if: (1) activity would result in the discharge of dredged or fill material in a water of the U.S. and the activity is not exempt from Clean Water Act regulation or (2) the activity includes structures or work in a navigable water of the U.S.

General permits are issued for categories of activities that are substantially similar in nature and cause only minimal individual and cumulative environmental impacts. General permits can be issued on a regional basis (regional general permits or RGPs) or a nationwide basis (nationwide permits or NWPs). General permits are valid for five years and may be re-authorized by the Corps. Every general permit has specific terms and conditions, all of which must be met for project-specific actions to be verified.

Standard Permits are individual permits issued for projects that do not qualify for a general permit. They require a public notice and review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). A decision to issue a standard permit is made following a case-specific evaluation of a project’s expected benefits balanced against its reasonably foreseeable detriments (also known as a public interest review) and a determination that no less environmentally damaging, practicable alternative exists.

Letters of permission (LOPs) are a type of individual permit evaluated using a streamlined process. A LOP may be issued for projects where proposed work would be minor, would not have significant individual or cumulative impacts on environmental values, and is not expected to encounter appreciable opposition. Individual Corps districts develop these procedures after coordinating with state and federal agencies and tribes and allowing the opportunity for public comment.

The St. Paul District regulatory process

 Silver Jackets Program

Silver Jackets teams are collaborative state-led interagency teams continuously working together to reduce flood risk at the state level. Through the Silver Jackets program, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and additional federal, state and sometimes local and tribal agencies provide a unified approach to addressing a state’s priorities. Often, no single agency has the complete solution, but each may have one or more pieces to contribute. The Silver Jackets team is the forum where all relevant agencies come together with the state to collaboratively plan and implement that interagency solution. Through partnerships, Silver Jackets optimize the multi-agency utilization of federal resources by leveraging state/local/ tribal resources, including data/ information, talent and funding, and preventing duplication of effort.

The primary goals of the Silver Jackets program are to:

  • Facilitate strategic life-cycle flood risk reduction
  • Create or supplement a continuous mechanism to collaboratively solve state-prioritized issues and implement or recommend those solutions
  • Improve processes, identifying and resolving gaps and counteractive programs
  • Leverage and optimize resources
  • Improve and increase flood risk communication and present a unified interagency message
  • Establish close relationships to facilitate integrated pre-event, event response and post-disaster recovery solutions
 Tribal Partnership Program

The Tribal Partnership Program, or TPP, provides authority for the Corps of Engineers to perform water-related planning activities and activities related to the study, design and construction of water resources development projects located primarily on Tribal lands that substantially benefit federally recognized Tribes.

To start the process, a Tribe submits a study request to the Corps of Engineers. The Corps will evaluate the request, and if viable, work with the tribe to determine a scope of work and enter into a feasibility cost sharing agreement.

Following the execution of the agreement, the Corps seeks federal funding for the study. Once funding is obtained, the Corps initiates a feasibility study where costs are shared with the Tribe. The cost share depends on the type of study and the Tribe’s per capita income.

During the feasibility study phase, the Corps and the Tribe identify potential solutions, analyze the costs, benefits and environmental impacts, and develop a recommended project. If a project is deemed feasible, the Tribe and the Corps must enter into a design agreement to obtain funding and move forward with the initiation of the project.

Ongoing studies


  • Prairie Island Indian Community: Sturgeon Lake Ecosystem Restoration. $1,651,000 received. Design & Implementation.
  • Upper Sioux Community: Minnesota Riverbank Stabilization. $573,000 received. Feasibility Study.
  • Lower Sioux Community: Minnesota Riverbank Stabilization. $368,000 received. Feasibility Study.
  • Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians: Fish Passage and Marsh Restoration. $490,000 received. Feasibility Study.


  • St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin: Big Sand Lake Shoreline Stabilization. $340,000 received. Feasibility Study.
  • Ho Chunk Nation: Sacred Earth Parcel Wetland Restoration: $475,000 received. Feasibility Study.

North Dakota

  • Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians: Shell Valley Aquifer Analysis. $550,000 received. Feasibility Study.


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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
St. Paul District
Tribal Liaisons

St. Paul office
332 Minnesota St., Suite E1500
St. Paul, MN 55101

Bemidji office
4111 Technology Drive NE Suite 295
Bemidji, MN 56601