The purpose of the project is to arrest erosion along tribal lands on the southeast side of the lake while enhancing access to the water for cultural practices.
Fed by groundwater, Big Sand Lake is a clear, soft water lake that has varying levels of algae growth within the year, affecting lake health. The lake, located in Burnett County, Wisconsin, is typically 1,434 surface acres with a maximum depth of 55 feet.
The Sand Lake St. Croix Tribal Community is situated on Big Sand Lake along its southeast shoreline. The St. Croix Tribe hosts a swimming beach and winter boat landing. Tribal members grow and collect wild rice and fish for a variety of species in Big Sand Lake, including bluegill, black crappie, walleye, largemouth bass, yellow perch and northern pike.
Tribal elders have indicated that these areas were good ricing spots historically but have decreased in size over time. No harvests have occurred for many years. Additionally, approximately 2,000 lineal feet of shoreline is actively eroding into tribal land along the south eastern bank of Big Sand Lake. The eroded area is progressing towards Angeline Avenue, approximately 50 feet away at the nearest point. There is also a local beach that is being affected by the shoreline erosion. Tribal members indicate that runoff, wave action and springtime ice heaving occurring along the tribal lakeshore are causing the erosion and environmental degradation. The lake is more than 1 mile wide at this location, which results in a large fetch for waves to develop.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and tribal partners completed a feasibility study in August 2022, to evaluate various alternatives for the permanent stabilization of the lake shoreline and the protection of the structural integrity of Angeline Avenue. The feasibility study determines and compares alternative methods for achieving restoration; developing planning level cost estimates; and identifying data gaps and collect the data needed to complete the assessment of alternatives.
Initial funding was received in fiscal year 2018. Additional funding was made available for the Corps to begin design in Winter 2023. The final design and Contract Award are expected to take place in FY25. The whole project is expected to be fully Federally Funded.
The Tribal Partnership Program (Section 203 of Water Resources Development Act 2000) authorizes activities related to the study, design and construction of water resources development projects substantially benefiting Native American tribes. The non-federal sponsor for this project will be the St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin.
Federal Funds Allocated to Date $660,000