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Other Water Projects

Nonpoint Source Management Program

In 2004, Fond du Lac submitted our Nonpoint Source Assessment Report and Management Program to the EPA Region 5 office (link to report document). In December, they approved both the management program and our application for ‘Treatment as an Affected State’, or TAS, which is the authority to manage a tribal nonpoint source program for the Reservation. In our nonpoint source assessment of the Reservation, we examined all the indirect sources of pollution (erosion, stormwater runoff from roads and pastures, nutrient loadings, temperature impairments), and then developed a nonpoint source management plan to minimize those loadings and impacts. Since there are no permitted discharges or point sources of pollution to Reservation waters, it is critical to identify and mitigate nonpoint source impairments to protect our lakes, streams and wetlands. We now have additional federal dollars every year for our water quality protection program, and can apply for competitive tribal nonpoint source project grants. In our first nonpoint source program work plan, we identified several priority projects: hosting a Forestry Best Management Practices workshop, working with Carlton County on a Geologic Atlas, and develop education programs and outreach materials for different sectors.

Wild Rice Lake Restoration

Our monitoring data did not indicate any biochemical reasons for wild rice to be inhibited in Wild Rice Lake; the most likely and apparent cause was high water levels. The concrete culverts at the lake’s outlet under Highway 210 had been completely blocked by debris from beaver activity, causing the water levels in the lake to remain too high for ideal wild rice growth conditions. Working with our Wildlife Biologist, Mike Schrage, and with technical assistance from the Minnesota DNR, in 2001 we installed two pond levelers at the outlet to Wild Rice Lake (see photos below). These conduits keep water flowing through the outlet and maintain lake levels suitable for wild rice, even if beavers attempt to block the culverts again. In 2002, 2003, and 2004, we have seeded different areas of the lake, and are seeing positive results: rice is growing in more areas of the lake, and is becoming more dense in the areas that we have seeded. This certainly benefits the waterfowl and other wildlife that use the lake, and in future years there may be dense enough stands of rice to support harvesting.

Stoney Brook Watershed Study

The Resource Management Division will begin a comprehensive hydrologic study of the Stoney Brook Watershed this year, with technical assistance from the Natural Resource Conservation Service. We will be collecting precipitation, ground water, rice lake water level and stream flow data; doing physical surveys of the ditch channels and stream segments; creating a high-resolution digital elevation model; and pulling all of this information together to develop a hydrologic model of the Stoney Brook system. Once this model has been developed and calibrated, we can use it to predict how the wild rice lakes, ditches and historic stream channels, and wetlands respond to different storm events and water conditions (drought, spring runoff). With this information we can determine which ditch segments are most important for helping to manage the water level in the wild rice lakes, and which areas would be good candidates for restoration (re-connecting the original stream channels to the adjacent wetlands, and improving habitat).

St. Louis River Monitoring

The Fond du Lac Office of Water Protection, Ceded Territories Fisheries Biologist, and Natural Resource Technicians will be working this summer with three Minnesota DNR Area Fisheries Offices and the 1854 Authority to do fisheries assessments and water quality monitoring on the St. Louis River. We will be working from the lower Reservation boundary all the way up into the headwaters of the river, near Seven Beavers Lake. Many different agencies and groups will benefit from this monitoring project, and we will establish 4-6 permanent monitoring sites on the Reservation that will be part of our ongoing water quality monitoring program.

Natural Resource Damage Assessment

The Fond du Lac Environmental Program has been actively participating in Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) activities related to the Interlake/Duluth Tar Superfund site in the St. Louis River estuary. This site is heavily contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and metals (lead, mercury, arsenic, and others) from various industries that have operated at the site over many decades, much of it associated with the sediments in Stryker Bay and the two shipping slips at the site. Last year, the MPCA issued a Record of Decision describing the remedial or cleanup activities that the responsible parties (the industries responsible for the pollution) must pay for and complete. While this satisfies their obligation under Superfund rules, they are still responsible to provide compensation to the public for the many years of lost natural resources use because of the contamination. Along with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the DNR, the MPCA, the BIA, the 1854 Authority, and National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Fond du Lac is one of the “Natural Resource Trustees” for this NRDA action. We are developing a plan for restoring some of the natural resource services that have been lost because of the industrial contamination: improving fish habitat, public access, and restoring wild rice in suitable areas of the estuary. In the near future, Fond du Lac will be involved in implementing some of these projects, including raising public awareness of the cultural and historic importance of this area to the Ojibwe people.

Traditional Foods Risk/Benefits Study

We collaborated with Dr. Mary Renwick of the University of Minnesota Water Resources Center on a study funded through Minnesota Sea Grant, to look at contaminant levels in other harvested/hunted foods associated with water or wetlands. In this project, we collected samples of wild rice (both green and finished), waterfowl and moose, and are analyzing them for mercury and lead levels. Once again, rather than attempting to alarm band members and discourage them from eating traditional foods, we emphasized the tremendous cultural and nutritional benefits of harvesting, hunting and consuming these foods, as opposed to supermarket alternatives and commodities products. Native Americans are disproportionately at risk for developing diabetes and other nutritionally related health problems, and this increased risk has been attributed to a shift towards a more “Western” diet, away from traditional local foods.