Meeting with NOAA: Manitowoc County Lakes Association’s Meeting and Speaker Series, September 28th 2017.
As guests are always encouraged to attend the MCLA Speakers Series, it was great to see so many who came to hear, and be heard by, Russ Green, the Regional Coordinator of the NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. He presented the role of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration on Lake Michigan and the status of the proposed Marine Sanctuary, projected to be located offshore of Ozaukee, Sheboygan, Manitowoc, and potentially Kewaunee, Counties. Russ is also the Deputy Superintendent at the Thunder Bay, Michigan, National Marine Sanctuary, having guided that Sanctuary for the past 13 years. He has worked for the Wisconsin Historical Society as a maritime archaeologist.
Russ began his presentation by recounting the shipping history of our Great Lakes, reminding us of Wisconsin’s maritime heritage and why we would care about the many shipwrecks nearby. But, Russ stated, a sanctuary is concerned with more than shipwrecks, and more generally promotes the educational initiatives and cultural awareness which are informed by other historical resources. Creating a focused designation would promote tourism, and be of benefit to our community economically. Plans of actions include education and outreach, community engagement, and working with volunteers. Mapping of the wrecks, and potentially use glass bottom boats to allow viewing of the wrecks, are part of what would attract tourists. Russ mentioned the Thunder Bay website, https://thunderbay.noaa.gov/ as a source of further information.
Russ pointed out the interagency cooperation which will guide Sanctuary policies, with State agencies such as the Department of Tourism being involved, as well as the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation.
To questions regarding potential changes in our access to shorelines and water, Russ stated that current State of Wisconsin laws prevail. For instance, ’No restrictions in regard to metal detecting on beaches will happen.’ To a question about the danger of ’mission creep,’ meaning an unchecked extension of NOAA’s powers, Russ responded with, ‘We will have meetings involving the public, like we are having now, regarding any possible later changes.’ A remarkable range of concerns was expressed by the attendees, including several about the records of past experience in other sanctuaries, the establishment of a Sanctuary Center and its location, and the impact on current institutions such as the Wisconsin Maritime Museum..
Governance of the Sanctuary would be the task of fifteen board members, and fifteen alternates, representing the range of Lake users and from the public at large. The ‘Sanctuary proposal is in the finishing stages,’ Russ said. In October/November it will be sent to Congress for approval.
The Manitowoc County Lakes Association appreciates the presentation by Russ and the commentary of all attendees. We hope that if initiated, the Sanctuary will foster further interest in bettering the quality of our waters. Should this venture encourage commitment to increasing awareness of our need – and right – for better quality of water, that in itself would be a driver of economic development.
“The Manitowoc County Lakes Association will protect and enhance the quality of area lakes and watersheds for the benefit of all.”
— Hanna Edelglass
Update: February 27, 2018
Gov. Scott Walker has rescinded the nomination to implement the proposed National Marine Sanctuary, stating that the addition of another level of federal bureaucracy will not materially advance our shared commitment to protecting shipwrecks. Those who have supported the sanctuary designation remain hopeful that the proposal can keep working forward.
You can read the Sheboygan press article here: https://www.sheboyganpress.com/story/news/2018/03/07/wisconsin-governor-scott-walker-pulls-noaa-lake-michigan-national-marine-sanctuary-nomination/403766002/