Lake Michigan coastline designated national sanctuary to protect historic shipwrecks

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers announced the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrations (NOAA) Office of National Marine Sanctuaries will publish a final rule for the designation of the Wisconsin Shipwreck Coast National marine Sanctuary on Tuesday, June 22.

The sanctuary designation will take effect following a review by the governor and Congress over a 45-day period of continuous sessions of Congress, officials say.

The sanctuary proposal extends from parts of Kewaunee County, to Manitowoc, Sheboygan, and Ozaukee counties.

It spans 962 square miles and will protect 36 historically significant shipwrecks and related maritime heritage resources, officials say. 

Of the 36 wrecks, 21 of them are on the National Register of Historic Places. The area also includes two of the state's oldest known shipwrecks. 

Officials say archival research suggests there may be 60 additional undiscovered shipwrecks. 

“This National Marine Sanctuary would be only the second of its kind in the country and will build upon Wisconsin's legacy of maritime trade and navigation, highlight Wisconsin's unique and vibrant coastal communities, as well as protect, conserve, and enhance public access to a significant number of historic shipwrecks in Lake Michigan for generations to come,” said Gov. Evers. “These shipwrecks tell the story of our state and this designation will allow us to further explore and learn from our history, enhance local tourism, and provide educational opportunities for Wisconsinites and visitors alike. We appreciate all the work over the years of NOAA, Senator Tammy Baldwin, our agencies, all the local leaders and local groups for their efforts to get us here.”

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