Lower Brule North Shoreline Ecosystem Restoration

Location:  Lyman County, SD
Authority:  Section 203 of the Water Resources Development Act of 2000 (WRDA 2000), as amended (33 U.S.C.§2269).
Sponsor: Lower Brule Sioux Tribe
Current Phase:  Feasibility Study


Aerial Oblique of the Study Area (Looking North)


An integrated feasibility study and environmental assessment were conducted to evaluate ecosystem restoration and preservation along the Missouri River near the community of Lower Brule on the Lower Brule Reservation, South Dakota. The study and assessment were conducted in partnership with the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe of the Lower Brule Reservation, in South Dakota. 


The construction of the Big Bend Dam/Lake Sharpe project inundated thousands of acres of pristine Missouri River bottomland floodplain forests, significantly altering the landscape, and degrading natural and cultural resources along the Lower Brule Sioux Reservation. Remnant riparian, wetland, and cultural resources have been further lost and degraded by continual shoreline erosion, due to wind driven waves and ice-action in the years since the reservoir was constructed.  This includes degradation of the quantity and quality of aquatic and riparian habitats. Unlike many reservoirs, Lake Sharpe is operated as a re-regulation reservoir. Thus, the pool elevation remains relatively stable, and only fluctuates by about one foot, regardless of pool levels and releases from the other five Missouri River mainstem reservoirs. Native riverine, emergent wetlands, and riparian habitats once abundant along the shores of the Missouri River (before construction of Big Bend Dam) were a significant economic, cultural, and spiritual resource to Native American Tribes.  


A study evaluated alternatives to restore and preserve nationally significant natural resources along approximately 3.9 miles of shoreline to the north of the Lower Brule community. The primary goal is to restore degraded aquatic, wetland, and riparian habitats for fish and wildlife, while incorporating robustness and resiliency so the restored habitats will be sustainable. Restoring these resources will contribute significantly to preserving cultural, spiritual, and ceremonial flora, to maintain cultural traditions that revolve around the Missouri River, its floodplain environment, and its natural resources.

The resulting Recommended Plan is currently under review.

The Recommended Plan will restore nationally significant, critical riparian and wetland habitats to the area producing a net increase of 82.8 average annual habitat units. These habitat units are derived from a net increase of 79 acres of native cottonwood riparian forest habitat and 20 acres of native wetland habitats both of which are regionally scarce along this stretch of the Missouri River.

Integrated with the habitat restoration, the Recommended Plan incorporates resilient design to withstand wind-wave and ice-shove erosive forces preserving 450 acres of Tribal lands and cultural resource sites and infrastructure that otherwise would be lost over the next 50 years. The Recommended Plan includes restoring landscape features and accessibility for Tribal members to reconnect with the Missouri River and its natural environment. Regaining access to the river would provide younger generations the connection to the river that has been previously lost. Reintroduction of medicinal and culturally significant plants will provide younger generations historical knowledge and allow reintroduction of spiritual practices. An island would provide all Lower Brule Sioux Tribal members with land features that were lost when the reservoir was filled.

Historic Map of Major Named Islands

For more information, contact:



 Lower Brule Sioux Tribe Department of Wildlife, Fish and Recreation Project Manager, Joel Bich