Water Quality

The Fond du Lac Environmental Program’s Office of Water Protection includes the staff and programs responsible for protecting the aquatic resources of the Reservation: surface waters (lakes and streams), wetlands, and ground water. These resources are substantial: over 3000 acres of lakes, 96 miles of streams, and 44,000 acres of wetlands, which support traditional hunting, fishing and gathering activities of band members. The Reservation has been granted “Treatment as an Affected State” or “TAS” authority for administering its water quality program, and in December 2001, was notified that our tribal water quality standards were formally approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. These standards include special designated uses such as fishing, recreation, wild rice and wildlife defined for 24 lakes and 8 streams within the boundaries of the Reservation, and form the basis for protecting Fond du Lac’s lakes, streams and wetlands. Most of the funding for this base water quality program - staff, monitoring, equipment, contractual work - comes from U.S. EPA Region 5 (http://www.epa.gov/owow/), which provides financial and technical support to the tribes in Region 5 just as they do for the states.

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Since 1998, we have been monitoring these waters (see above photos) to determine if they are indeed “healthy” and able to support the types of aquatic communities (algae and macrophytes, zooplankton and benthic macroinvertebrates, both cold and warm-water fishes) that we would expect to see in lakes and streams in northern Minnesota. We measure such parameters as temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH, conductivity, turbidity, total dissolved solids, color, total hardness, alkalinity, nutrients (various forms of nitrogen and phosphorus required by algae for growth and reproduction), and transparency. In lakes specifically identified as wild rice waters, we also look at the nutrients available in the sediments for the rice plants to take up, and sulfate, which may inhibit rice growth. Once a year, we screen all our lakes for a list of harmful heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, chloride, chromium, copper, lead, nickel, selenium, and zinc.

In addition to doing this physical and chemical monitoring, we also sample the aquatic biological communities: periphyton or attached algae, benthic macroinvertebrates (organisms such as aquatic larval insects, snails, scuds, mussels) and fish in the streams; phytoplankton or floating algae, macrophytes or rooted plants, and zooplankton (“water fleas”) in the lakes. When possible, we include fish community information from our fisheries program or the Minnesota DNR for our lakes. We perform many of the measurements and analyses ourselves, either in the field or in our environmental laboratory; other samples are sent out to local laboratories to be analyzed. All of this water quality data is used to report on the condition of our Reservation waters, determine any trends in water quality over the seasons or years, and identify lakes and streams that may need restoration or extra protection.

Fond du Lac Lakes and Streams Data Table - statistical information about the many lakes and waterways on the Fond du Lac Reservation.
Requires Microsoft Excel to view.
Data Table Explanation - A general overview of the data table. A laymen's guide to what the figures mean and some of the collection methods applied.

2003 Water Quality Report 305b

Water Quality Certification

The Fond du Lac Reservation Business Committee adopted the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Water Quality Standards of the Fond du Lac Reservation (Ordinance #12/98, as amended). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved these Standards in 2002. Subsequently, the RBC adopted the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Water Quality Certification Standards (Ordinance #01/06), which outlines the procedures the FdL Office of Water Protection will use to grant, grant with conditions, or deny Clean Water Act Section 401 Water Quality Certification. By law, no permit or license can be issued by the federal government unless it has received this certification from the proper authority - in this case, any federal permit or license issued within the external boundaries of the Fond du Lac Reservation. The FdL Wetlands Protection and Management Ordinance (Ordinance #03/06) (WPMO) also requires a 401 Water Quality Certification for its permits, as well.

A Public Notice will be issued for either 30 days or 60 days to invite public comment regarding any pending 401 Water Quality Certification decisions. However, when a 401 Water Quality Certification is pending for a WPMO Wetland Activity Permit, the Public Notice for this certification will be included with the Public Notice for the actual permit (see the Wetlands page on this website for current WPMO Public Notices). Any current Public Notices for 401 Water Quality Certification will be posted below.