The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is requesting a no-swimming designation for Shafer Beach from Douglas County.
Listed as a recreational beach, the DNR is recommending deactivating that status until the Moccasin Mike Road landfill closes, expected in 2027, and bacteria levels at the beach can be re-evaluated.
Gulls, which flock around the landfill en masse, are believed to be a contributing factor to elevated bacteria levels frequently found in sampling at the beach.
By the county posting this location as "no swimming," people would be alerted they should not swim at Shafer Beach.
According to the DNR, the site has frequently exceeded criteria for posting advisories and closing beaches when sampled. Over 10 years, Shafer Beach has typically had the highest E. coli concentrations along Wisconsin Point, and it's common for 30 percent of samples to exceed the threshold for posting.
Management of Shafer Beach, owned by Douglas County, is recommended for habitat protection and restoration in the Wisconsin Point Area Management Plan. An initial site assessment performed by the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh from 2010-2012 identified potential sources of bacterial contamination resulting from gulls, stormwater from tributaries and runoff down the bluff adjacent to the beach.
The Lake Superior Research Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Superior was contracted to evaluate the likely sources of bacterial contaminants and develop recommendations. This investigation, which concluded in 2017, used DNA markers for indicators of human sewage, bovine (cows) and gulls.
The results of the study confirmed that birds were the primary source of E coli at Shafer Beach, with little evidence of the other markers. The number and magnitude of water quality exceedances along Wisconsin Point from Lot 1 to the lighthouse decrease with distance from Shafer Beach at the base of the Wisconsin Point, according to the DNR.
Douglas County's Land and Development Committee is slated to consider the request when it meets at 3 p.m. Tuesday in Room 207C at the Douglas County Courthouse.