St. Paul District currently has four ongoing feasibility studies through the Tribal Partnership Program, or TPP. This program helps federally recognized tribes enter into cost-share agreements with the Corps of Engineers to help solve water-related problems.Big Sand LakeOne of the studies is the Big Sand Lake shoreline stabilization project. This feasibility study is intended to help the St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin with the rapidly eroding banks of Big Sand Lake in south central Burnett County, Wisconsin. Big Sand Lake is wide but shallow, with an average depth of only nine feet. Almost 2,000 linear feet of shoreline is eroding away due to ice heaves and wave action and is rapidly cutting into the tribal lands of the St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin.Prior attempts in 2009 by the Natural Resource Conservation Service to protect the shoreline through the use of geotextile-wrapped cylindrical baskets filled with stones, or gabion baskets, to slow the erosional forces and encourage plant growth have not successfully strengthened the shoreline of the Big Sand Lake. These gabion baskets have also become hazardous to tribal members attempting to access Big Sand Lake.The waters of the Big Sand Lake are of cultural importance to the St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin as the lake is used as a traditional gathering spot for plants such as arrowhead, sugar maples and blackberries, as well as a spot for spearfishing walleye. Wild rice beds have also suffered. For many years the size of the rice fields has slowly declined and are now to the point where the tribe can no longer harvest wild rice.As with all Tribal Partnership Programs, the Corps has designed several alternatives to meet the needs and wishes of the St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin. Potential project plans include the restoration of aquatic and terrestrial vegetation, the reshaping of the shoreline to be more resistant to erosional forces and additional, protective stone rip rap.In addition to shoreline rehabilitation, plans also include the improvement of tribal infrastructure along the Big Sand Lake shoreline. Canoe launch sites will be made more accessible, pathways will be made ADA compliant, gathering areas will be rehabilitated and beach access will become more accessible to tribal members. Once the chosen plans are implemented, the tribe will once again be able to safety access an environmentally stable Big Sand Lake.Sturgeon LakeEarly in 2019, the St. Paul District partnered with the Prairie Island Indian Community to resolve erosional damage to Buffalo Slough Island, an island within Sturgeon Lake near Red Wing, Minnesota. After several months of working with the Prairie Island Indian Community to determine which solutions would best allow them to continue their cultural practices, the team finalized the feasibility study and integrated environmental assessment.The Prairie Island Indian Community’s tribal lands are in the modern-day location of Pool 3 of the Mississippi River, near Red Wing, Minnesota. The Prairie Island reservation began as 120 acres in the late 1800s and their lands grew in size through additional land acquisitions throughout the years. However, dam construction in the 1930s drastically reduced the amount of livable land for the community. Water levels were raised and areas previously unaffected by the Mississippi River were now inundated or exposed to the effects of shoreline erosionThe Prairie Island Indian Community is concerned about Buffalo Slough Island, as the eastern shore of the island is heavily eroded and filled with invasive reed canary grass which damages both the aquatic and floodplain forest habitat. In addition to the negative environmental impacts caused by the erosion, the damage to Sturgeon Lake makes the area inaccessible to the community to continue their cultural practices of growing wild rice, collecting plants for consumption and medicinal purposes and practices sacred to the community.The Prairie Island Indian Community are descendants of the Mdewakanton Band of Eastern Dakota, or “those who were born of the waters,” and have lived in the region since before European contact. Riverine resources were, and still are, crucial to the Prairie Island Indian Community culture as it has long been the source of food, medicine and other resources vital to their cultural heritage.Project manager Kimberly Warsaw, said, “This feels like a huge win to work on an ecosystem restoration project that will benefit the Prairie Island Indian Community. The Buffalo Slough Island is eroding with its natural habitat also declining. Our project aims to protect the island from further erosion, increase the size of the island, eradicate the invasive species and plant native trees.”The plan consists of constructing a stone bullnose at the northern point of Buffalo Slough Island to counteract the impacts of the Mississippi River’s force on the apex of the island. In addition, rock vanes on the eastern side of the island will both prevent additional shoreline erosion and providehabitat for a variety of birds, reptiles and mammals. The island itself will be raised further out of the river through the placement of main channel dredging material. Capped backwater dredged materials will serve as a top soil for newly planted trees grasses, and other native plants to be planted throughout the island.Upper Sioux CommunityThe Upper Sioux Community have occupied the Pejuhutazizi Kapi (the place where they dig for yellow medicine), located near Granite Falls, Minnesota, for thousands of years. The Upper Sioux Community tribal lands are adjacent to the Minnesota River, but a sharp bend in the river is rapidly eroding and threateningto cut a new channel through agricultural lands as well as land enrolled in the Natural Resources Conservation Services and Wetlands Reserve Program. Tribal lands are a finite resource to the Upper Sioux Community and the loss of land to a new cut of the Minnesota River would be detrimental to the community who see their land as integral to their continued prosperity.The bend of the river most susceptible to erosion had been previously protected with stone rip rap, however, the rip rap failed and allowed the river to begin cutting across tribal lands. In June, Corps personnel conducted a site visit of the area in order to meet with the Upper Sioux Community, assess the current state of the bank erosion and collect geomorphic samples to better understand the structure of the riverbank.This TPP project is a first for many of the Corps personnel working on the project. “The Tribal Partnership Program ensures that the tribal voice is front and center in the planning process, and that what is important to the Upper Sioux Community is central to the planning process,” Nan Bischoff, project manager, said.Jill Bathke, planner, said, “TPP projects are different from standard flood risk management plans, as you are fixing a problem and providing assurances that the problem is going away and will not reoccur.”The Tribal Partnership Process allows tribal communities to access the project planning skills of the Corps of Engineers to help solve any water resource issues, such as with this project which will ensure the preservation of the Upper Sioux Community’s tribal lands.