Portion of Lake Michigan could become Marine Sanctuary

During the 2015 Our Ocean Conference in Valparaiso, Chile, President Barack Obama announced Monday that, for the first time since 2000, two new national marine sanctuaries have been identified by NOAA for possible designation under the National Marine Sanctuaries Act.  NOAA is now seeking comment on the proposals.

In Wisconsin, an 875-square mile area of Lake Michigan, with waters extending from Port Washington to Two Rivers received tremendous support from the community, and was identified for possible designation. The nominated area contains a collection of 39 known shipwrecks, 15 of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Mallows Bay in Maryland is a 14-square mile area of the tidal Potomac River, adjacent to Charles County. Nearly 200 vessels spanning from the Revolutionary War through the present are found in the area, including the remains of the largest “Ghost Fleet” of World War I wooden steamships built for the U.S. Emergency Fleet, which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

Both sites were nominated as a national marine sanctuary through the sanctuary nomination process with broad community support. 

“For the first time in twenty years, communities can bring forth proposals for consideration to be added to our nation’s system of marine sanctuaries,” said Holly Bamford, Ph.D., assistant NOAA administrator for the National Ocean Service performing the duties of the assistant secretary of commerce for conservation and management. “The Mallows Bay-Potomac River and Wisconsin-Lake Michigan nominations demonstrate this new bottom-up approach, which ensures communities lead in identifying and protecting their valuable coastal and marine areas. We look forward to hearing from the public as these two nominations go through the process.”

The public is invited to submit comments until Jan. 15 through the Federal eRulemaking Portal, www.regulations.gov (docket number for Mallows Bay-Potomac River is NOAA-NOS-2015-0111 and docket number for Wisconsin-Lake Michigan is NOAA-NOS-2015-0112). An official notice will be published in the Federal Register later this week.

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