Public comments invited on Great Lakes beach listings

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MADISON, Wis. – Public comments and feedback are needed to help the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources complete its annual listing of Lake Michigan and Lake Superior beaches.

Following significant water level changes in 2014, DNR intensified its annual review of Great Lakes beaches and updated the listing. DNR is now encouraging feedback on the latest list, which can be found by visiting the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, and searching “Great Lakes beaches.” The public comment process plays an important role as beach locations, local names and conditions may change over time. The updated maps show current beach locations for each coastal county.

Donalea Dinsmore, DNR Wisconsin beach program manager, said Great Lakes beaches provide a wide range of recreational opportunities for nearby communities while drawing visitors from other states. The beaches also serve as home to an incredible variety of plants, animals and birds.

“Our beaches contribute to our quality of life in many ways,” Dinsmore said. “Through the annual listing, we hope to bring more attention to these natural assets and identify changes for the public when conditions evolve as a result of restoration work, public land acquisition or water levels.”

Beach health efforts represent a combination of federal, state and local initiatives, including operation of the Beach Health (exit DNR) website, water monitoring and regular efforts to identify and control sources of bacteria that lead to swimming advisories. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires all Wisconsin beaches along the Lake Michigan and Lake Superior shorelines to be identified and prioritized for water quality monitoring.

A “beach” is defined as any place where the public has recreational access to the water for swimming or other water-related activities. Some boat launches and natural areas are included. Inland beaches are not included in the federal program; however, several communities and state parks participate in these efforts voluntarily, posting information on the Beach Health website. These beaches are not included on the published list.

In preparing the annual beach list, DNR considers:

  • whether coastal beaches should be added to the list -particularly if there are new parks with beach areas;
  • water quality and whether historical data exists;
  • whether conditions surrounding the beach changed ;
  • how many people use the beach and how local residentsrefer to it;
  • the location of the beach and the accuracy of its measurements;
  • whether “Nowcasts” or other same-day tools are inplace to improve the timing for posting advisories; and
  • whether the monitoring frequency is appropriate forthe use, conditions, and public notification tools in place.
Changes to the 2016 beach list

Additions to the 2016 list include:

  • Bayfield CountyMyers – Apostle Islands National Seashore (federal responsibility)
  • Kenosha County – Lakeshore Drive at 116th St., Pleasant Prairie
  • Kewaunee County – Pioneer Park, Kewaunee
  • Milwaukee County – Lakeshore State Park, Milwaukee

Beaches removed from the 2016 list include:

  • Kenosha County – Marina (also known as Melissa), Pleasant Prairie. Access to the locationis not safe; it is not a beach.

Other changes include:

  • Door County – Robert E. LaSalle Park. Water quality sampling will be added once per weekfor assessment
  • Kenosha County – Carol Beach. The community is planning a name change and sampling willbe added twice per week.
  • KewauneeCounty – The name has been updated from the city of Kewaunee to SelnerPark.
  • Kewaunee County – The name has been updated from Lighthouse Vista to Father MarquetteMemorial Park.
  • Ozaukee County – Monitoring has been discontinued at Lions Den Gorge Nature Preserve.
  • Racine County – Sam Myers beach will be added once restoration is complete.

To maintain eligibility for funding under the federal Beach Act, state programs must provide an opportunity for public comment when changes to the list or monitoring program occur. Public comments on the listings and potential program changes should be emailed by the close of business on May 20 to Donalea Dinsmore, donalea.dinsmore@wisconsin.gov.

Watch for new signs at monitored beaches

To help beach-goers understand current water quality conditions at beaches, new signs will appear at beaches providing information about water quality monitoring. While existing colored signs or flags appear on the beach indicating the advisory status, the new signs include a QR code that links to the beach health website and multi-lingual messaging to explain the three levels of advice on water quality conditions.

On the signs:

  • Greenmeans no water quality advisory isin effect;
  • Yellowmeans elevated bacteria levels present a higher risk of illness; and
  • Red meansthe beach is closed.

Before heading to the beach, visitors also may want to check the Beach Health (exit DNR) website for updated information.