Port Washington and Mequon are two of five principle cities involved in supporting a Lake Michigan National Marine Sanctuary
By Mary Boyle
Over a year ago, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced their plans to create a new Lake Michigan National Marine Sanctuary in Wisconsin, in order to conserve shipwrecks and other maritime heritage resources along the shores of Ozaukee, Sheboygan, and Manitowoc Counties. The proposed sanctuary will cover 1,075 miles and protect 37 known shipwrecks with significant historic, archaeological, and recreational significance, as well as a potential 80 more that have yet to be discovered.
A report published in January measuring the economic and environmental impact of the sanctuary showed a positive impact on the counties bordering the sanctuary; however, that does not mean that the proposal will be approved, and the public still has their opportunity to comment, which citizens of the affected communities are being encouraged to do -- particularly in regard to where the headquarters for the Lake Michigan sanctuary might be located: Port Washington, Mequon, Manitowoc, Two Rivers, or Sheboygan.
Russ Green, the Regional Coordinator for the NOAA, insists that the process isn't competitive among communities: "It's been very collaborative, from Two Rivers to Mequon; it's very regional, so the sanctuary will benefit all of the communities."
A national marine sanctuary essentially creates an underwater museum or park, which will not only protect and conserve shipwrecks, which are an important part of our state and national maritime history, but will also allow public access. Mooring buoys would be installed over shipwrecks and other areas of significance, allowing divers to find and explore the sites far more easily, while alerting other water traffic to its existence. Furthermore, the research involved in creating the sanctuary, such as lake bottom mapping to search out more shipwrecks, will serve both historical and biological purposes, as the findings will also be used to examine the health of the Lake.
A public meeting will be held in Port Washington on Thursday, March 16th, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in the Lakeview Community Room (formerly the Wilson House), located at 206 N. Franklin St. Citizens will be given the opportunity to look at the proposal, which offers two different options for the borders of the sanctuary, and to ask questions about how the sanctuary will affect them.
If you are unable to attend the meeting, comments can also be made online at: http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/wisconsin/ through March 31st, or you can sign the NOAA form here. For more information, contact Russ Green, Regional Coordinator, at 920-459-4425 or firstname.lastname@example.org.