New guidelines factor in rise for Lake Altoona Beach advisories and closures

Waves at Lake Altoona Beach in Eau Claire County, WI
Waves at Lake Altoona Beach in Eau Claire County, WI(Daniel Gomez)
Published: Aug. 29, 2023 at 9:05 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE COUNTY, Wis. (WEAU) - The water advisories and beach closures are hard to miss at Lake Altoona Beach.

The Eau Claire City-County Health Department implemented new guidelines from the World Health Organization in 2021.

“And so that took a lot of time in 2021, a lot of meetings, figuring out communication materials,” said Tristin Faust, a chemist and microbiologist with the city-county health department.

She said moving the benchmark for monitoring algae levels in the water was necessary to account for everyone in the water when it comes to algae exposure.

“The health reference doses were calculated before and with adults and now they included children. So that’s why we want to approach these conditions with a new beach closure,” said Faust.

In 2022, Lake Altoona Beach was closed for more than 40 days out of the season. Faust said the numbers for the 2023 Summer season are not in yet, but advisories and closures appear to be consistent.

For the Eau Claire Ski Sprites though, it has been rough navigating the closures since the guidelines changing in 2021.

“The team acts where we use the jump that normally would be in the water that is required to be done down here for safety reasons,” said Ben Walker, the teams vice president.

He said in years past the team would be able to sign a waiver and be allowed to perform regardless of advisories posted. That has not been the case since the closures implemented with the WHO guidelines.

Walker said it has been bad for business and morale.

“It’s also hard for us to grow as a team when the shows can shows and practices can be so inconsistent,” said Walker.

Walker said on average the team puts on 25 - 30 shows per season. This summer they had to cancel 8 shows, and even ended their season early on Sunday. The launch dock is disassembled, Walker said there was no point in planning for a Labor Day show.

“It’s really unfortunate when we’re not able to put on shows for our audience,” said Walker.

Walker said he is not sure about the future of the Ski Sprites with the current guidelines in place for Lake Altoona Beach.

“If we continue to go down this road, I do worry for the future of the team just because if we can’t have consistent shows, it’s hard to have a consistent group of people,” said Walker.

Faust said this will be the final week the city-county health department will monitor and post advisories for algae and bacteria.