(Drone photos courtesy of D. Brendel)

Loretta Lake (Upper Brunet Flowage) is a 126 acre lake located in the Town of Draper, Sawyer County. It has a maximum depth of 12 feet. Visitors have access to the lake from public boat landings. Fish include Musky, Panfish and Largemouth Bass.

It is a drainage lake, created in 1938 by a concrete dam located in the southwest corner at Dam Rd. near the boat launch. The dam, lake and downstream water levels are managed by Sawyer County Conservation (not the Town of Draper). A 1968 Ordinance established the current minimum and maximum water levels: 1968 Order

Structural repairs are currently needed to the dam, as well as a replacement mechanism to control the water levels. The county has been working on the engineering of this project and is now awaiting final approval by the DNR to proceed- it is expected to start in 2022 and take a few months to complete.

On August 9th, the Town Board held a public Q&A session with Tim Seidl, who works for Sawyer County Conservation and is in charge of the dam. Here is the document that explains dam operation and maintenance: Upper Brunet IOMP - February 28 2020

Fifteen residents plus five town board members were present. Tim explained the history and legal specifications for setting the water levels and described the proposed project and timeline for completion.

Of primary concern to residents is whether the lake will be drained to complete the work. The water must be lowered to the bottom of the dam so that all concrete is exposed for repairs. There are two options: draw the water down for the entire lake, or build a coffer dam above the existing dam to hold the water while work is complete downstream.

Long-time residents recalled the drawdown of the lake in 2000 for similar repairs, and shared photos and concerns about the negative impact on the fishery, shoreland vegetation, and overall health of the lake after draining it to mud flats for several months. Those present agreed that a coffer dam would preserve the quality of the lake and be the best option for residents.

Tim Seidl estimated the cost of a coffer dam is between $75,000-$150,000 to install.

The current estimate for the project without a coffer dam is $500,000, with the County responsible for 50% up to $400,000 (Wisconsin DNR pays the other 50%), and 80% from $400,000-$800,000 (the cost is spread out over the entire County's property taxes). The projected cost to Sawyer County taxpayers for the dam repair as designed is approximately $330,000; the added cost of a coffer dam to the County would bring the project to about $410,000.

Here is a link to PRELIMINARY plans for the project- these have not been finalized, they are awaiting approval from DNR: Loretta Lake Dam Preliminary Plans

It is estimated that there are 68-88 residential properties that surround the lake. In addition to the residents, many Town residents and visitors enjoy recreational use of the lake, including boating, swimming and fishing. It is a beautiful and scenic lake at the heart of the Township, and we would all like to see the dam repaired with the least amount of disruption.

The Loretta Lake residents asked the Draper Board to send a letter to Land, Water & Forest Resources asking the committee to consider installing a coffer dam instead of draining the lake. A petition was started at the meeting and 13 signatures were collected; if you would like to sign the petition, please send an email stating that you support a coffer dam to [email protected]

The Draper Town Board will send the letter and signatures to the Land, Water & Forest Resources Committee in time for their September 8 meeting. We will keep you informed as more information becomes available, and notify you of public hearings as they are scheduled.

Loretta Lake Letter sent September 7, 2021

UPDATE: The Land, Water & Forest Resources Committee has rejected the proposal to have the County fund a coffer dam, stating that the only way it would happen is if the Town of Draper residents paid for it, as it does not benefit the County at large and the number of residents impacted is small overall. They are going to proceed with their original plan for a draw down in 2022. No further hearing will be held on this matter as the plan was already approved by the County Board.

Since the public meeting in Draper, several residents of Lake Loretta have contacted board members in favor of the drawdown and plan to undertake lake shore improvements- they have DNR permits for this work. This is a good idea!

The Planning Commission is working quickly with DNR to get lake improvements lined up if possible during the drawdown- this includes potential improvements to the boat landings. The Fire Department is looking at installing a dry hydrant at the Dam Rd. boat landing. Let's work together to make the best of this major inconvenience to improve the lake! The Town Board will get DNR contact information together so you can pursue shoreline work if you desire.

Following is a tentative schedule of the Loretta Lake Dam Project: this can change based on bids and contractor availability, but Jay believes the earliest start for drawing down the lake will be August 15. If for some reason the work cannot proceed on time, the project will be postponed until 2023. We are planning to have Jay and DNR officials speak and answer your questions at the town board meeting June 13th at 5:00 p.m.

DNR Plan Approval ............................................................................. April 11, 2022

Authorization to Bid From County...................................................... April 13, 2022

Final Plan Updates and Commence Advertising ................................ April 27, 2022

Bid Opening ........................................................................................ May 13, 2022

Award by County Board (if needed).................................................... May 19, 2022

Submit Bid Tabulation to DNR for Approval........................................ May 23, 2022

Notice of Award from DNR.................................................................. June 13, 2022

Pre-Construction Conference ................................................................ July 5, 2022

Notice to Proceed .................................................................................. July 5, 2022

Begin Construction............................................................................... July 15, 2022

Begin Drawdown ............................................................................ August 15, 2022

Submit shop drawings for gates...................................................... August 15, 2022

Complete drawdown at 6” per day (22days ±)........................... September 6, 2022

Complete Concrete Repairs...................................................... September 15, 2022

Install stop logs in Bay 3 while passing 25% of base flow........ September 15, 2022

No increase in lake level after................................................... September 25, 2022

Completion of all onsite work except gates................................   October 15, 2022

Complete gate fabrication (allowed 120 days after approval)........... Dec. 13, 2022

Install gates........................................................................................... April 3, 2023

Raise lake to Normal Pool...................................................................... May 5, 2023

Final inspection ...................................................................................... May 5,2023

One-year warranty ............................................................................... May 5, 2024

The above schedule allows bid review by the County Board, no increase in water levels after September 25th, completion of all onsite work by middle of October, allows 120 days to fabricate the gates after the shop drawings are approved, gates installed by spring of 2023 and water level can then begin to be restored. This schedule will allow the lake to be used for most of the summer of 2022 and refilled by early summer of 2023.

2000 Drawdown Photos

On June 13, 2022 at 5PM Jay Kozlowski addressed the citizens of Draper on the Lake Loretta dam repair project, starting with a history of the DNR identifying a “significant hazard risk” two years ago which changed the county’s inspection to annual instead of every 3-5 years. The repair project was designed and engineered and considerations of wildlife were made, and alternatives such as a coffer dam vs. drawdown were investigated. The county said no to a coffer dam. The approved cost to repair the dam with a drawdown method was $630,000. The project met delays for the past 2 years: when it finally went out on bid only one bid was received for $967,000.00. After consulting with the Town, Jay was able to come up with a way to save almost $100,000.00 in cost and this was presented to the Land, Water & Forest Resources Committee and then the Finance Committee, where it passed. It still goes before the full Sawyer County Board this Thursday, June 17 at 6:30 pm for a budget amendment and final approval. Jay then outlined the tentative timeline for the project, if approved: August 15 start the drawdown at 6” per day. September 5 drawdown complete, concrete work starts. September 15 complete concrete repairs. October 15 all onsite work complete. Over winter fabricate new steel gates. April 3, 2023 refill water. May 5, 2023 raise water level to normal pool. Fall of 2023 and fall of 2024 restocking of fish species in the lake. Following this outline, the floor was opened to questions by the citizens. Part way through when citizens began to challenge the dam repair, Jay gave them the current options the county is considering: the county can vote to go forward with the current plan and project and amend their budget to pay for the increased cost; if they do not approve it, the county could offer the option of charging $10-15,000.00 special assessments on lake property owners to pay for the dam; or they could remove the dam and return it to the Brunet River.
Q: Who will pay for and do the restocking of the lake?
A: Sawyer County, in consultation with the DNR fishery specialist Max Wolter.
Q: Does the project remove portions of the dam or just repair it?
A: Stop logs removed, concrete repaired with 3 inches of shotcrete, full steel gates installed in 2/4 of the gates to control water levels, some stop logs repurposed (to remain in place)
Q: Where does the refill water come from?
A: Brunet and natural springs
Q: What if there’s a drought? Will there be a delay in refilling the water then?
A: Yes
Q: Will the boat landings remain open for people to fish the pockets left when the water is drained?
A: Probably not: complete drawdown, 100% fish kill expected and Dam Rd landing will be part of the construction site
Q: Too many people fished the pockets in 2000, can it be posted “No Fishing” this time?
A: 100% fish kill anticipated, get fish out now- panfish limit raised to 25 per day in May and June
Q: Why are Northern Pike included in list of fish to be restocked? They are detrimental to musky fishery.
A: They are native species, Jay will ask Max Wolter. People could ask to leave them out.
Q: Is this expected to be more of a drawdown than in 2000?
A: Yes
Q: What will the size of restocked muskies be?
A: One foot
Q: Will safety fencing be installed on the roadways to keep people away from the site?
A: Dam Rd will be closed- detour on Knowles Rd
Q: What shoreline work can owners do?
A: Zoning and Conservation regulates above the high water mark: ordinance states no earth disturbance allowed within 35’ of shore- no dredging, no excavating, no filling, no cutting. Owners are allowed to clear 35% of their total shoreline vegetation but must leave all trees larger than 6” in diameter. Below the high water mark is DNR regulated: permits must be granted for any work below the high water mark. Contact information for Dan Harrington will be provided by clerk.
Q: How much is a fine?
A: County is $767.50 citation and must restore the shoreland (DNR is higher fines)
Q: What about the loons?
A: No answer- not Jay’s area of expertise
Q: Will the drawdown affect aquifers near the lake?
A: No answer, engineers may have looked at that
Q: Will the Brunet continue at the same flow rate?
A: Yes
Q: Will Winter be notified of any downstream issues?
A: Yes
Q: Are the new panfish limits posted at the landings?
A: T. Heisler: Not sure, but limits are 25 panfish per day in May and June, no other limits have changed
Q: Can people fish in front of other properties in the mud during the drawdown?
A: Yes, unless owner owns under the lakebed (ie Zmudas)
Q: Can the fire department install a dry hydrant during the drawdown somewhere along the dam embankment and service the other one above Blaisdell Lake Rd?
A: Likely yes, will need DNR permit form Dan Harrington
Q: Where is the old water going to go down?
A: Through the last stop gate
Q: After the drawdown, how much water will go through the river below the dam, will it be dry?
A: Engineers should have looked at this, not sure
Q: Will the beaver dams be removed below the dam so they don’t trap the fish coming through?
A: Ask Max Wolter/DNR if they looked at this or consulted APHIS
Q: Will the Town be improving the boat landings?
A: Probably no- DNR grant E. Peters looked at required $55,000.00 in matching funds from the town, and also making it an ADA compliant facility. Also, Dam Rd. landing will be used during the construction. The Town’s concern at this time is saving the lake.
Q: Who owns the land there?
A: County and Zmudas (adjacent)
Q: What will be done to mitigate blastomycosis in the lakebed mud?
A: Nothing can be done, it is a natural occurrence.
Q: Can owners work to improve the fishery with fish sticks or cribs?
A: Consult Max Wolter
Q: Can drones be used to locate beaver dams?
A: Not by county if they are made in China
Q: Are the silt barriers on Hwy 70 related to the dam project?
A: No, resurfacing of Hwy 70
Q: Is there a Loretta lake Association?
A: No, maybe there should be one
Q: Why have people been allowed to clear the shore, excavate, add riprap, cut down trees larger than 6” and other shoreline violations? Zoning and DNR have been called to investigate on Geschel and Meyers Rds and nothing happened.
A: A citation was issued and another owner had to repair the shoreline
Q: How many land use permits did Sawyer County Zoning issue last year?
A: 487 LUPs and 398 sanitary permits
Q: Will there be road closed signs?
A: Yes
Q: If the residents have to pay special assessments for the dam, will it become a private lake?
A: Not answered
Q: What is source of the rusty water that has always leaked downstream from the dam?
A: A natural spring maybe
Q: Would the citizens be interested in starting a Loretta Lake Association and/or having the clerk serve as a point of contact for concerns, violations and status updates going forward?
A: One person said yes
Q: When is the Sawyer County Board meeting to decide on the dam project?
A: Thursday, June 17 at 6:30 pm in person or via Zoom: E. Klein will provide the link to the citizens.
 
Link to Sawyer County Board Meeting June 16 at 630 PM via Zoom: To view or participate in the virtual meeting from a computer, iPad, or Android device please go to : 
https://zoom.us/j/95015680309 
You can also use the dial in number for listening only at 1-312-626-6799 with the Webinar ID: 950 1568 0309. If additional assistance is needed please contact the County Clerk's Office at 715-634-4866 prior to the meeting. This meeting will be recorded and will be available on our website at: https://sawyercountygov.org.  
Max Wolter, Fish Specialist DNR: [email protected] 
Dan Harrington, Water Management Specialist, DNR: [email protected]
Link to Sawyer County Board Meeting June 16 at 630 PM via Zoom: To view or participate in the virtual meeting from a computer, iPad, or Android device please go to :
You can also use the dial in number for listening only at 1-312-626-6799 with the Webinar ID: 950 1568 0309. If additional assistance is needed please contact the County Clerk's Office at 715-634-4866 prior to the meeting. This meeting will be recorded and will be available on our website at: https://sawyercountygov.org.
Max Wolter, Fish Specialist DNR: [email protected]
Dan Harrington, Water Management Specialist, DNR: [email protected]