(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.

 

 

 

 

2000 Drawdown Photos