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The shoreline work done several years ago to control erosion was overwhelmed by high water, and needs to be fixed for good.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is seeking public comments on its draft environmental assessment for the proposed Big Sand Lake shoreline stabilization project in Burnett County, which is within the St. Croix Chippewa Reservation. 

According to the Corps, the project involves stabilizing the shoreline and increasing the safety and accessibility to Big Sand Lake for the continuation and preservation of St. Croix Chippewa’s water-dependent traditional cultural practices. Specifically, the project includes stabilizing the shoreline and beach, construction of small retaining walls to stabilize the steep slope from the lakeshore to an upper gathering area, an Americans with Disabilities Act compliant path and parking to provide lake access for tribal members with differing physical abilities and vegetating the re-shaped slopes with culturally significant native plants.

In the report, the Corps outlines the need for the project, citing shoreline erosion that is undermining existing wooden retaining walls and steps that were built years ago to stabilize the slope and access to the lake at the location, which is where they undertake a variety of cultural practices. Recent high lake levels have damaged the retaining walls and the stairs used to access the lake, meaning there is currently no safe access to the lake, and vegetation at this site, including culturally significant vegetation, has been adversely affected due to high water and past shoreline stabilization efforts.

The area has been used by the Community as a beach and gathering area for ceremonies and community purposes since their tribal lands were established after the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. The project is located at the only site within the tribal lands that has canoe access to the lake and is large enough and dry enough to be suitable for conducting the Tribe's traditional cultural practices associated with the water.

The Corps has three possible alternatives to decide on the project, with a fourth option – doing nothing – not considered a true option.

Details of the project are available in the draft feasibility report available online, which also includes an integrated Environmental Assessment and plenty of other information, in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act. Details can be found at: https://www.mvp.usace.army.mil/Home/Public-Notices/.

Any comments on the draft report should be provided before Nov. 26. Questions on the project or the feasibility report should be directed to LeeAnn Glomski at LeeAnn.M.Glomski@usace.army.mil or (651) 290-5595.

- With information form the US Army Corps of Engineers.